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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 12:22 GMT
Arsonists target secondary school
Fire-damaged kitchen
The fire-damaged school kitchen
Arsonists are suspected to have been behind a fire at a secondary school in County Armagh.

Fire crews who were called to St Joseph's on the Dundalk Road in Crossmaglen at 0300 GMT on Monday, discovered the fire in the kitchen.

The Fire Service said a window had been broken in the kitchen. Water damage was also caused to the canteen area.

School principal Kevin Scally said he was grateful for the messages of support from across the community.

"It's been quite overwhelming and we are comforted that we've had that level of support," he said.

"The police are treating this as arson and at the moment there are forensic people working in the canteen to see if we can identify the persons responsible."

The school, which has 600 pupils on its rolls, remained closed on Monday. However, it will reopen for years four to seven on Tuesday.

District Fire Commander Victor Spence said it would take a long time to repair the damage.

'Vandalism'

"At the moment we are treating the fire as arson as there are indications there has been a break-in into the school," he said.

"We just don't understand why anybody would want to carry out wanton vandalism to a school like this."

SDLP Newry and Armagh assembly member Dominic Bradley said the fire came at a key time for students preparing for examinations.

"It is imperative that the Department of Education, the SELB and the other key agencies involved do everything in their power to ensure disruption to teaching and learning in the school is kept to a minimum," he said.

Sinn Fein councillor Terry Hearty described the fire as "a devasating blow not only to the school but the entire community".

"It is now time for the community to stand together and state to those engaged in this type of behaviour that enough is enough" he said.

Police have appealed for witnesses and want anyone who saw anything suspicious to contact them on 0845 600 8000, or call the confidential Crimestoppers number on 0800 555111.




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