Shocked mem­bers ‘just want to get go­ing’ again

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - NEWS -

Staff were emo­tional and shocked as they at­tended the scene of a fire at Lak­ers which de­stroyed their build­ing and all of their ve­hi­cles.

The blaze at the Brady Cen­tre on Sea­point Road oc­curred in the early hours of Fri­day morn­ing. Mem­bers of Bray Fire Ser­vice used a hy­draulic plat­form to tackle the blaze. The un­sta­ble roof made it dan­ger­ous to en­ter.

The art room, train­ing kitchen, stor­age, of­fices and other fa­cil­i­ties were part of the de­stroyed premises.

Lak­ers is a sports and recre­ation club for 400 adults and chil­dren with an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity.

Chair­man Fer­gus Fin­lay said that the fire is not be­ing treated as ma­li­cious and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into its cause con­tinue.

‘It’s im­por­tant at Lak­ers that we don’t turn peo­ple away. Un­for­tu­nately this morn­ing we’ve been turn­ing peo­ple away,’ said Mr Fin­lay, speak­ing at the scene on Fri­day.

He said that staff had been phon­ing and email­ing mem­bers all day.

‘We have to fig­ure out what the in­sur­ance story is, what the safety story is, and what we can do about al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion,’ he said.

‘I’m hop­ing the com­mu­nity will rally around. Just this morn­ing the land­lord has pro­vided us with an of­fice space. We can do all our com­mu­ni­ca­tions at least.’

He said that trans­port is es­sen­tial as a num­ber of mem­bers are not able to travel unas­sisted and a se­lec­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties such as swim­ming, golf, and more, are held off-site.

‘The buses are ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial,’ said Fer­gus, who had of­fi­cially re­tired the pre­vi­ous day.

One of the buses was just a few months old. Some mem­bers had fundraised with a trek in Croa­tia, and the Lucinda Sul­li­van trust con­trib­uted.

Ser­vice man­ager San­dra Fa­gan, also the par­ent of a mem­ber, spoke about the im­por­tance of Lak­ers.

‘No­body comes here be­cause they have to, it’s their so­cial hub,’ she said. ‘When mem­bers come here they pick what they like to do.’

She said that the staff at Lak­ers also love their jobs and take great pride in their work.

They hit the ground run­ning as soon as news of the fire spread on Fri­day, and any ac­tiv­i­ties pos­si­ble are pro­ceed­ing, in­clud­ing ju­nior clubs and bas­ket­ball at BIFE, golf and gym ses­sions, and any­thing off-site. Lak­ers have been of­fered a num­ber of halls, and staff are cur­rently con­sid­er­ing all of their many op­tions.

‘They just want to get go­ing,’ said San­dra on the mem­bers’ re­ac­tion to the fire. ‘They’ve all been on the phone won­der­ing when we’ ll be open.’

Gen­eral Man­ager Jo Heath said that they are try­ing to sal­vage some kind of pos­i­tiv­ity.

‘Ob­vi­ously at a glance it’s re­ally shock­ing and so neg­a­tive. Be­cause our or­gan­i­sa­tion is 30 years old next year, we’ve de­cided that all of our fundrais­ing will now be fo­cussed on rais­ing funds for our own premises, be­cause this one is rented. The most ob­vi­ous way of turn­ing this into a pos­i­tive is just speed­ing up this whole process.’

Ian McGa­hon, elec­tion can­di­date for the Labour Party, works in the dis­abled ser­vice area, and spoke about the im­por­tance of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

‘Lak­ers have pro­vided huge ser- vice over so many years,’ said Mr McGa­hon. ‘I think the com­mu­nity will sup­port them. The ben­e­fits are far reach­ing, and in­clude in­creased con­fi­dence, phys­i­cal and men­tal health and well-be­ing, nur­tur­ing friend­ships, and en­joy­ment of life.’

Mean­while, in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the fire, Deputy Stephen Don­nelly called on the Govern­ment to en­sure that Lak­ers had ac­cess to the funds it needs to re­build.

‘I’m very glad that Min­is­ter for Health Si­mon Har­ris came down to visit the club im­me­di­ately af­ter the fire and ex­pressed his sup­port. But what’s needed now is ac­tion rather than words,’ said Deputy Don­nelly.

‘It’s now im­per­a­tive that we get them the money they need to re­build their fleet and re­open their base.

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