A North Belfast boxing coach whose club minibus was burnt out by vandals at the weekend said he has still had no contact from the PSNI to investigate the incident. Dockers coach Paddy Fitzsimmons was speaking after the mini bus used to transport 14 young boxers, coaches and parents was set alight outside the venue for a cross community tournament in Derry on Saturday night.
The North Belfast club was left stranded at the Bogside Community Centre after the bus, that was on loan from St Matthew’s in the Short Strand, was destroyed by a malicious fire. The group had to get £75 taxis home in the early hours of Sunday morning back to North Belfast.
The respected coach said the police did not come to the scene after they were called on Saturday night and he has still yet to hear from the PSNI on the incident.
“’I think one of the most disappointing things was that the police didn’t come out once,” he said,
‘They were called on the night and didn’t come and as yet I haven’t heard from them since, not a word. We were there from about 7.45pm until about 10.45pm and there was no trouble at all so I don’t see why they couldn’t have come to investigate.”
The Antrim Road man said the youngest children were just 11 years old and left shaken by the incident but praised the Co Derry Boxing Board for their support.
“It wasn’t a nice experience for the kids,” he said.
“But the people in Derry couldn’t do enough for us, they wanted to put us up in a hotel and then they paid for our taxis back to Belfast.
“They couldn’t have been more helpful and it certainly wouldn’t put us off going back there.”
Paddy, who has coached hundreds of local young boxers, said the loss of the bus is a blow to the club who take part in matches all over Ireland.
“St Matthew’s were good enough to lend us the bus for matches but how can you ask them for it again after that happened?” he said.
“We have been invited to Waterford in March to box, normally we get the bus from St Matthew’s but you can hardy ask them now. We also have a team coming in March from London. When we have teams over we usually take them out a on a wee day somewhere but we won’t be able to now.
‘It’s a big loss.”
A spokesman for the PSNI defended their decision not to attend on the night.
“Due to a petrol bombing earlier in the evening officers were unable to attend immediately however further enquiries have since been carried out,” he said.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 0845 600 8000.”