Arson spree leaves village with no pub

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
Arson spree leaves village with no pub

A series of arson attacks has left residents of a rural village living in fear, after the only remaining pub was gutted by fire.

It emerged this week there have been a number of arson attacks in Duleek and nearby Donore over the last 12 months.

A house was previously badly damaged when a car was set ablaze in the village, while a minibus, sheds and barns have also been burned down.

This week, a van was crashed into the front of the pub in Duleek and was then torched in a deliberate attack on the family-run business.

The blaze has left the Co. Meath village without a boozer after two other pubs were shut down in the last year. 

The owners are mystified as to why the premises has been targeted in such a deliberate way and told Gardaí there had been no prior warning.

There hadn’t been any incidents of people being barred or any other problem that could have caused a grudge, according to sources.

The attack last Monday came just days after a car went on fire beside the pub, in what is now believed to a connected incident.

Monday night’s attack on Kelly’s Pub could easily have ended in tragedy as customers helped carry a frail elderly man down the stairs.

Local Councillor and resident Sharon Keogan said the fires are “a serious issue”.

“Thank God it happened at the time it happened at because if it happened an hour later we would be looking at fatalities. There would have been no way to get the elderly man down the stairs,” she told the Sunday World.

Cllr Keogan’s pub in the village, O’Neill’s, has also been shut down since a fire caused by a stove badly damaged the premises.
Another pub, The Greyhound Bar, has also been closed since last year.

“Essentially we are a village without a pub. Our pub would have been run like a community centre, all charity events and fundraisers would have been held there,” said Cllr Keogan.

“The loss of a pub is the loss of a community hub, it’s a social place to gather. The role of the pub is not just one of serving liquor, it’s definitely a community building,” she added.

This week’s blaze has left people shocked and tomorrow night a public meeting is to be held to discuss the series of recent arson attacks. 

“The first car that was set alight on the Saturday night was like an isolated incident, but you now know it’s a strategic, malicious attack on the public house. It’s just very frightening for all of the community,” added Cllr Keogan.

At least two men were involved in the frightening incident in which a Ford Transit van with a Northern registration was rammed into the front door just after midnight on Monday.

The family who live above the pub include an elderly man with Parkinson’s and 15-month-old toddler.

They all managed to escape unharmed with the help of customers and staff, but the pub and their home has been completely destroyed.

Most of the family’s belongings were also destroyed in the arson attack, including their furniture, valuables and documents. Part of an upstairs bedroom also caved in, while the bar counter and lounge were destroyed.

Officers from Ashbourne Garda Station are investigating the incident, and no arrests have yet been made.

Gardaí have also taken CCTV footage from the area, but the two assailants were “well covered”, according to sources. It is also being investigated whether a third person was involved as a getaway driver.