The family who were the victims of an arson attack in Letterkenny last week and have been subjected to three years of “intimidation and abuse” insisted yesterday they wouldn’t be returning to the Council house at Ard na Ri.
Gerry and Francesca Obi and their three children were accomodated in a bed and breakfast outlet in the days immediately following the racially motivated attack and have since moved into a hostel in the town.
Letterkenny Town Council is awaiting a formal correspondence from Garda Superintendent Vincent O’Brien which will determine the extent of the harrassment claims and whether the family, originally from Nigeria, can be moved into new accomodation.
Speaking to the People’s Press/Democrat, Francesca Obi confirmed they were waiting on the Garda report before a decision can be made on their future. But she maintained: “We will not be moving back into the house we were in.”
A Garda forensic team carried out an investigation at the house in the Long Lane area of the town where, on Monday evening of last week, a shed to the rear of the premises was set alight and its contents completely destroyed. A half filled oil tank in the vicinity was also threatened while damage was caused to the back of the house at Ard na Ri.
Mr. Obi had earlier that day returned from a two week spell in hospital after suffering a heart attack brought on, the family insist, by the stress of ongoing intimidation and abuse. He had been asleep in the house when he was alerted to the blaze by neighbours and fire brigade personnel.
The family have claimed they have been subjected to “three years of hell” since moving into the house with windows smashed on various occasions and vehicles belonging to them also damaged.
In the wake of the fire, Town Mayor, Councillor Gerry McMonagle said it had the “potential of causing serious injury or worse”.
He said: “This fire was in the early evening and a lot of children were playing in the nearby park at the time. To think that someone could act so irresponsibly beggars belief.”
Cllr. McMonagle said if claims that the attack was racially motivated were proven it was a “despicable act”.
Yesterday, a friend of the family, Sean McClafferty said they would under no circumstances be returning to the house despite claims from a Council official that the premises was habitable.
“It all depends now on the letter from the Superintendent and the only other problem is the shortage of Council accomodation that is available,” he declared.