Mayor of Cork ‘sick to death’ of arson attacks on buildings as historic Ballincollig factory destroyed by fire

Heritage campaigners say their hearts are broken after a historic mill was destroyed in a suspected arson attack overnight.

Gardaí have launched an investigation after the old factory structure in Ballincollig Regional Park, on the outskirts of Cork city, was gutted in the early hours of Saturday morning. Crime scene investigators were on site early Saturday, examining the site for evidence.

This is the second suspected arson attack at the park in recent months.

Arson damage in Ballincollig Regional Park on Friday evening.

Lord Mayor Cllr Colm Kelleher, who represents the city, said he planned to raise the matter with the high guard ahead of Monday’s meeting of Cork City’s Joint Police Committee.

“It is clear now that this is a serious wave of arson in the city,” he said.

“They are progressing from the benches to the buildings and they have to be tackled.

“I’m tired of waking up almost every month and seeing parts of our town and village being destroyed by gurriers.

“My ward councilors and I have asked for CCTV cameras to be installed in the park. There will be a substantial cost but we have to put an end to it”.

Last year, several benches and picnic tables in the park were set on fire in what was then described as “an act of deception” and an attack on the community.

An empty bench, where one of 15 benches in Ballincollig Regional Park was burnt down and destroyed last year.  File picture.
An empty bench, where one of 15 benches in Ballincollig Regional Park was burnt down and destroyed last year. File picture.

Mr. Kelleher called this latest incident an attack on our history and heritage.

“It is absolutely shameful. I am truly at a loss for words,” he said.

Gardaí confirmed that members of the Cork City Fire Department responded to reports of a fire in the early hours of the morning in the park which is home to Ireland’s largest industrial archaeological complex, with several buildings and ruins associated with its former use as a powder mill.

Firefighters found an old mill structure incorporating flames and managed to quickly bring the blaze under control.

The mill wheel of the Powder Mills at Ballincollig, before it was damaged in a suspected arson attack.
The mill wheel of the Powder Mills at Ballincollig, before it was damaged in a suspected arson attack.

At the peak of production, the gunpowder factories had 24 such factories to produce raw gunpowder.

The building that burned down on Saturday is a modern reconstruction built in 1993.

It features in an immersive Powdermills app that recently won a Digital Tourism Award at the Digital Town Awards.

The team behind the app said his heart was broken after the fire.

“This building was a fine reconstruction of an original mill, commissioned by Cork County Council in 1992 and opened to the public in 1993,” they said.

“Months of tireless work by skilled craftsmen and a decade of planning – it all burned down in minutes.

“This fire took place in a building located right next to private residential buildings, a nursing home for the elderly and a high school.

“If the temperatures here had been anything like mainland Europe right now, the tree canopy would have easily ignited and spread the flames to these surrounding buildings.

“Yes, history has been destroyed. Yes, years of work have been destroyed. Yes, unimaginable damage has been done. But when are these people going to stop?

“Do we have to witness a terrible tragedy before corrective measures are taken?

Marjorie N. McClure