Sports Minister Martin Cullen has added his voice to the condemnation of the scandalous vandalism perpetrated on the Crystal Saviours Boxing Club in Ballybeg.
The premises, which doubles as a community hall, was severely damaged and expensive equipment destroyed as a result of the arson attack on Tuesday night of last week. The internal blaze broke out at around 10.30pm and it took four units of the local fire brigade to bring it under control.
As well as igniting fires in several parts of the building, which was broken into, the culprits also slashed equipment with knives. The damaged property included punch-bags, gloves, pads and other various boxing gear worth thousands of euros.
Serious smoke and fire damage was caused to the boxing ring and the premises itself. Only for the response of a member of the public the entire building would have burnt to the ground.
One individual close to the club, wishing only to be referred to as ‘John’, contacted this newspaper this week to express his revulsion at what happened.
“I am sitting here still sickened to my stomach from an act committed by people who have no business or right walking the same streets as ordinary decent members of the community.
“This attack could not have come at a worse time for the club, which recently celebrated its first Irish champion and last weekend had a winner in the Junior Cadet Championships, who is now in training to go the World Junior Championships.”
He added: “The club itself is run by a group of people who work tirelessly often seven days a week providing for the community of Ballybeg and Waterford as a whole for no financial reward whatsoever.
“The head of this group is one Bart Simpson, a man who will be well known to your readers for his amazing work in the community and his endless contribution towards boxing in Waterford and on a national level.
“This is a man who has given every spare minute he has had over the past number of decades at great personal expense to help young boys and girls to partake in the great sport of boxing, teaching them discipline and self-respect, while also providing them with a place to go to, keeping them off the streets and out of trouble.
“The work Bart and many others associated with the club have done in the community cannot be understated or exaggerated, and this is how that great work is repaid?
“This mindless act was not only an attack on the boxing club, who also share the building with St Saviours AFC, but also an attack on the community as a whole. I have no doubt that there are members of the community who know who was behind this cowardly act, one fuelled by jealously and downright thuggery.
“We must ask ourselves what kind of a community or city allows such a shocking act to go unpunished and what kind of message is this sending out?”
Devastated Club President Larry Durand, the award-winning referee, said it was a personal attack on its members. The Gardai are still investigating the circumstances and anyone with information should contact them in confidence at 051-305300.
The successful 60-member club, established 12 years ago, moved into its current premises – run by a volunteer committee – in 2005, with Minister Cullen and Mayor Pat Hayes performing the official opening.
Crystal Saviours BC, which has received tens of thousands of euros in sports capital funding, featured on the RTÉ television programme ‘Gorilla Gourmet’ with celebrity chef Kevin Dundon early last year.
He established an ad hoc restaurant in the boxing club with local children and club members becoming his assistant chefs and waiting staff for the night as they cooked pigeon for the paying public.
Unfortunately the smell of burning last week was of the most foul play, not fowl.