Moortown patrol boat destroyed by masked men

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Moortown patrol boat destroyed by masked men thumbnailThe Orkney 24 boat

TWO masked men have destroyed a 60,000 patrol boat used by bailiffs on Lough Neagh.

It is believed the men cut the boat, an Orkney 24 type, from its moorings at a quay in Moortown before setting it alight at 12.35am on Saturday.

The boat later sank after firefighters put out the blaze.

The Orkney 24  was bought by the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society in Scotland two weeks ago and had only been in use for a week.

The boat, named Colleen, was used for both enforcement patrols as well as research and survey work carried out by the cooperative.

The cost of buying and fitting the boat with electronic equipment is understood to be around 60,000.

The  Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society owns the rights to Lough Neagh's lucrative commercial eel and scale fishery and manages licensing and some enforcement.

The organisation has four patrol boats, three of which were operational until the weekend. They are involved in ensuring fishermen are properly licensed and that nets and other equipment are legal.

The arsonists, who were recorded on CCTV, cut their way through a fence before torching the boat causing a large explosion.

The burning boat then drifted into two other patrol vessels berthed nearby, causing some damage, which has yet to be fully assessed.

It is understood the culprits attempted to set fire to a second patrol vessel, but are believed to have fled after people living nearby raised the alarm.

Chairman of the Cooperative Pat Close said fishermen were shocked by the attack.

"It's an attack against the property of the Cooperative and an attack against the Cooperative and it's an attack against the fishing community as well," he said.

"The fishermen of Lough Neagh have utterly condemned this attack and the people are supportive of the Cooperative."

Police are investigating the latest incident.

SDLP Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said the attack was "shocking" and "senseless"

"I have been speaking with local people I utterly condemn those responsible for this senseless arson attack.

"This is shocking news, that has caused deep concern in our community.

"I appeal to anyone with any information to get in touch with the Police as soon as possible."

Speaking on the matter, Sinn Fein Cllr Ronan McGinley said the incident had caused  distress  to the entire community of the lough shore: "Obviously, fishing is a massive livelihood right along the lough shore and those directly involved in the Co-Operative are at the forefront of everyone's minds. The wider community has been enraged by this.

"Fishing has always been a livelihood full of fluctuation, and fishermen have many obstacles to contend with that are beyond human control. Added to this in recent times are the pressures of Brexit and the uncertainties that have arisen as a result of the decision to leave the EU. Bearing all this in mind, to see such a callous act of vandalism carried out against people just trying to make an honest living is a real shame.

"The council have been working closely with the Fishing Co-Operative in recent times to try and create more opportunities for those working in this industry and this cowardly crime is very disheartening."

Francie Molloy  urged anyone in the local community with knowledge of what happened to come forward: "The landscape of this area has meant that fishing has been a livelihood for most families for generation after generation and against the backdrop of a range of issues, this is a resilient and hard working community.

"I would ask anyone with information about this disgusting crime to report it, in order for the perpetrators to be brought to justice."

SDLP Cllr Malachy Quinn also condemned attack: "I completely condemn this disgusting act and pathetic act.

"This attack has sent a shockwave not just through the lough shore  area but throughout the entire fishing community.

"I have been talking to quite a few fishermen over the weekend who have all registered their disgust at this act and I encourage anyone with information to get in contact with the PSNI. Sadly those who burnt out this boat will now force other hardworking fishermen to pay for this damage and they will have to pick up the work that this boat was bought to do."


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