The arson attacks which have blighted the city since Saturday last are believed to be linked to the weekend’s Traveller feud which hospitalised six people.
Local Gardaí added little to the statement released yesterday (Thursday) morning by the Garda Press Office concerning the latest incidents that, in City Councillor Davy Walsh’s opinion, have left Waterford “under siege”.
At 1am on Thursday, a house in Saint Herblain was firebombed, but there was no-one in the property at the time.
Over two hours later in the Manor Saint John area, another house was subjected to an arson attack, where a car was also burned out. It’s believed that both house and car may have been wrongly targeted.
Mass group apology offered
In the aftermath of the attack (at around 6am) a group of approximately 30 people are believed to have attempted to make an apology to the owner of the wrongly identified home.
Gardaí in the area are said to have asked the apparently contrite group to promptly leave, which they duly did.
Seven arson attacks have been reported in the city since Saturday, prompting an increased garda presence in some of the areas directly affected by the violence.
One housing estate featured a garda checkpoint at its entrance last night, complete with crash barriers, a high-powered spotlight and a dozen uniformed officers.
These latest attacks followed the throwing of a petrol bomb through the window of a property in the Ashling Court area of Hennessy’s Road at approximately 2.40 on Wednesday morning.
This house was also unoccupied at the time, with Waterford fire-fighters quickly extinguishing the fire.
Since last weekend’s violence, which spilled over into Waterford Regional Hospital, gardaí have recovered firearms, ammunition, knifes and machetes during a series of searches.
En route to a meeting with residents in the Kilcohan area, an irate Cllr John Halligan re-iterated comments he made during an emergency debate at Monday’s meeting of Waterford City Council.
“Where else would 20, 30 people, armed to the hilt with guns and machetes the way these people have been, be tolerated” he told The Munster Express.
“If 20 settled people on an estate in Waterford behaved like this, what would happen? They’d be off the street, that’s what would happen.”
He continued: “What’s been going in this city this week has been nothing short of disgraceful. Now there are some decent Travellers, law-abiding people who keep good homes and I know them, and it’s important that that’s said.
“But let there be no mistake here – a group of 20 to 30 people fighting is not and never can be described as a small group of people.”
The time for going back to the drawing board with respect to the Traveller accommodation issue was long overdue, said Cllr Halligan, who has been meeting shell-shocked residents directly affected by the violence.
“I have absolutely no problem saying this, unlike others,” he added. “The Traveller Accommodation Programme has clearly, abjectly failed and it’s time to go back to the Government on this if we really want to find a way of integrating people into communities because what’s there clearly isn’t working.”
Cllr Halligan glumly predicted that “this situation is not going to stop any time soon” and that a Garda rapid response unit was now required in the city “to take these criminals off the streets”.