Northern Ireland news

Police hunt arsonists after `deliberate ignition' of paper factory at north Belfast interface

The aftermath of a fire at a recycling plant on the Limestone Road in north Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.

A BUSINESSMAN whose paper recycling factory was gutted in a "deliberate arson" attack at a north Belfast interface is considering whether to remain in the area.

Firefighters and neighbouring businesses worked until the early hours of yesterday morning to save the Bailey's Waste Recycling building on Limestone Road and prevent the blaze spreading to a next door primary school and youth centre.

At the height of the blaze 46 firefighters were on site, with emergency services working for almost 24 hours from 4.45pm on Monday to ensure the fire was fully extinguished.

Owner Paddy McBride praised them and Red Cross volunteers who kept rescuers fed and hydrated as they battled the flames and smoke.

He said staff will be back at work today after the mammoth efforts saved the integrity of the building.

"I would like to thank the fire service, the PSNI and our own staff on site for the work they put in last night," he said.

"They internally contained the fire so there was no structural damage - although we estimate £20-30,000 worth of saleable paper was lost."

The material was "ready to go" to clients in England and Europe.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it had been caused by "deliberate ignition" and police have launched an arson investigation into what is believed to have been a malicious act of destruction.

Mr McBride said he was thankful that "nobody was injured and everybody came out of it OK".

"Local people were incredible," he added, with an employee from nearby WAC McCandless "staying until 3am from 5pm" the day before.

He said while it is "business as usual in full operation" today, he and his fellow owner will have to consider over the next six months whether to continue their investment in the area where they set up the factory 11 years ago.

"We have the insurers out today and they said they could see we had been running it right and the Environment Agency are happy with us.

"It wasn't our doing. I would never have happened without someone making it happen."

North Belfast DUP assembly member William Humphrey thanked NIFRS for saving the adjacent Mountcollyer Youth Centre and Currie Primary School.

"I am told that at one stage the flames were less than five metres away from the building," he said.

"... It would have been a devastating blow to the Lower North Belfast community if this youth centre and primary school had been lost.

"It is deeply concerning to hear that the PSNI are treating this blaze as suspected arson. I urge anyone having any relevant information to bring that forward to the police."

Police have appealed for anyone with information or who was in the area and saw anything suspicious to call 101, and quote reference number 1582 of 05/07/21 or make a report via the non-emergency reporting form at http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/

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