The defacement of a community-funded youth mural at the weekend with Nazi, anti-Semitic, and sectarian abuse, has been described as “mindless” and an “absolute disgrace”.
In an act that has shocked the local community there, gardaí have now launched an investigation into the vandalism of a mural painted by the Ballyconnell Youth Club.
Located beneath a bridge on the Inner Relief Road on the hugely-popular loop walk that leads to the Annagh Lough Woods and wildlife reserve, the damage is believed to have been done around midday to early afternoon on Saturday, January 12 last.
Funded by Ballyconnell Town Development, the mural was drawn and painted by young members of BYC, a cross-community organisation, and had depicted the picturesque surrounds in the local area.
Scrawled in spray paint over it now are a series of vile insults, swastikas, phallic symbols, and a variety of other hate speech.
The grotesque graffiti follows similar damage carried out to a bench in the Eugene Reilly Memorial Park near to the local playground.
Stunned and saddened by the damage, volunteer with BYC, Lorraine O'Loughran said: “It's what they wrote. It's unbelievable. I hate to think it was young people who did this, because we work with all children from all communities in our club. We are open to everybody, it's all cross community, I'm just horrified to think anyone could do something like that.”
She says that, while the graffiti can be cleared, it's likely there are elements of the artwork that too will be lost forever. “It took a lot of volunteer hours and hard work to put that there. The children involved each put their hand-prints in paint on it. They'll mostly likely be lost now, and that's very sad. Something like that can never be got back,” says Ms Loughran, who made it clear that the vandalism is "not a reflection" on young people in Ballyconnell.
"This is only one or two bad eggs. I've been volunteering for seven years with the youth club and living in the town my whole life and have never seen behaviour like this before."
Her disappointment and disgust was shared by locals representatives, Sinn Féin's Damien Brady and Fine Gael's Peter McVitty.
“A lot of people are very upset by this. This is a very popular walkway and this mural was a very popular spot along it, with people taking pictures. To put that sort of filth across it is an absolute disgrace. The community is very proud of the children who put that there.”
He adds: “This sort of carry on is not on. This is not what our community is about. Whoever has done this should be ashamed of themselves.”
Cllr McVitty agrees, telling the Celt that “whatever can be done, will be done” to help return the damaged mural to its former glory.
“The council has put a lot of work into that walkway, the community has put a lot of work into putting it there, and making sure it's maintained. These people who are at this kind of thing, one thing is very clear, they've no respect for anybody. If they sit back now and see the hurt that's been caused from this, I hope they'd be very sorry people.”