IT’S believed that a tit-for-tat feud between gangs of mindless youths over tyres for Halloween bonfires may have resulted in the torching of a 160-year-old north inner city school.
One hundred pupils and staff from St Laurence O’Toole Girls’ National School have been displaced as a result of the fire, which was started between 4am and 6am on September 16.
It’s believed that a rival gang from another area set tyres alight outside the school in retaliation for the theft of their tyres days earlier.
The listed building, located on Seville Place, suffered extensive smoke damage and some structural damage in the arson attack, which happened just two weeks after the school reopened following the summer holidays.
Classes will now be held in the local community centre and Sheriff Street Youth Club while other classes are being catered for by St Laurence O’Toole Boys’ National School.
Sinead Byrne, whose daughter Abbie will attend classes in the community centre until the school is refurbished, said the situation was beyond belief.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful and utterly ridiculous that a war over tyres between kids could lead to this,” Ms Byrne told Northside People.
“Halloween isn’t even for another month and look at the trouble caused already.”
Ms Byrne, who herself attended St Laurence O’Toole, praised the school’s staff for their efforts to ensure pupils were accommodated elsewhere with as little inconvenience as possible.
“The teachers and principal have been fantastic and it’s a credit to them that pupils only missed two days of school last week,” she said.
“The community centre is the best solution given the circumstances, even though classes have to finish an hour earlier each day because the centre is needed by other groups.”
It’s estimated that classes will return to normal in the old school building in four weeks’ time.
Principal of St Laurence O’Toole Girls’ National School, Siobhan Henry, said: “It’s disappointing that this had to happen but we will get back up and running as soon as possible.”
Gerry Fay, chairman of the North Wall Community Association, said it was shocking and ridiculous that the school became “collateral damage” in a war over tyres.
“You’d have to wonder where these tyres are coming from,” he said.
“Why do we accept that all this hassle is part of the tradition of Halloween?”
North Inner City ward councillor Nial Ring (Ind) said the stockpiling of tyres had been a concern in the area prior to the fire.
“As recently as September 13, at the regular North Wall Community Forum which is attended by the gardai, Dublin City Council and local representatives, locals expressed grave concern at the unprecedented amount of tyres being accumulated by youths in the area,” said Cllr Ring.
"The gardai and Dublin City Council have in the past arranged a coordinated approach to the problem of tyre collecting coming up to Halloween. Unfortunately this time the plan has not gone as well as usual and it's the schoolchildren of the area who must now suffer.”
Former principal of St Laurence O’Toole Girls’ National School, Aodhan O’Riordain TD (Lab), is confident that the school will bounce back.
“It is a very resilient community and the pupils are wonderful,” he said.
“I’ve no doubt that they can put this behind them and that at the end of the school year this will only be a minor blip.”
Meanwhile, gardai at Store Street are appealing for anyone who may have seen any suspicious or unusual activity around the school or on neighbouring streets, between 4am and 6am on September 16, to contact them on 01-6668000.