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February 6, 2003

'Suspicious' fire destroys deaf centre

From: Glasgow Evening Times, UK - 06 Feb 2003

by Alex Robertson

A CLUB which provided a lifeline for Glasgow's deaf community has been forced to close after being gutted by a suspicious fire.

The blaze destroyed part of the St Vincent Centre for the Deaf in the city's east end - a vital community facility for hundreds of people, including many children.

It took firefighters 40 minutes to control the blaze and the cause is under investigation amid fears it may have been started by firebugs.

A snooker room and shower room in the Tobago Street building were destroyed and the sports area was damaged. The building is now without electricity and heating and is boarded up.

Around 300 people, ranging from children to OAPs, regularly used its facilities, which are designed to provide deaf people with community support and social activities.

Helen Mooney, of the centre's management committee, said members were devastated.

She added: "The centre is a lifeline for deaf people - it's their second home. It's so important for them to have a social life and being able to talk to people who speak sign language.

"They've nowhere to go and I don't know if the club will ever open again.

"We think that vandals were responsible."

The centre, which is staffed by volunteers, also provided social and pastoral care for OAPs, who had regular meetings and dances.

It also provided sports facilities, including football, darts, snooker and bowls. Young children were also invited to the centre once a month to enjoy activities.

Volunteer Scott Campbell, 33, said deaf people like him who used the facility would now be isolated.

He said: "My heart is in this club. This is so sad and disappointing. We are absolutely lost.

"If a lot of people don't have a place to go they'll be isolated and lonely at home. It's their only chance to meet new friends."

A fire brigade spokesman said: "Investigations into the fire are under way but it appears it may have been deliberate."

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