Anger at vandalism of restored Bessbrook Tram

June 3, 2019

The wanton vandalism of a newly restored Bessbrook Tram carriage has prompted outrage across the district. 

Students from Southern Regional College in Newry had spent almost five years painstakingly restoring the full size tram to its former glory after it had lain for more than 60 years in a field near Camlough.  Since work was completed earlier this year, the tram has been under the care of Newry Mourne and Down District Council, sited in a yard at Albert Basin.  However, last week it emerged that vandals, who had allegedly been using the tram as a drinking den, smashed windows and caused extensive internal and external damage to the iconic structure.

Ironically, previous suggestions that the restored tram be installed as an art piece at the Camlough Road roundabout were shelved due to fears over the potential for vandalism.  It was later agreed the structure would be put in place at Newry Train Station.  However, for whatever reason, the tram remained in the Council’s unsecured site at Albert Basin where it became a target for vandals.

Newry Independent councillor Gavin Malone was alerted to the vandalized state of the carriage.

Windows were smashed and graffiti daubed on the iconic structure
The fully restored Bessbrook Tram carriage marking five years of effort by SRC students has now been extensively vandalized

Voicing his anger at those responsible, he said, “All that effort put into it [by the students] and now it’s been wrecked.  It’s so depressing that this has been allowed to happen.  Such a beautiful piece of our history has been annihilated.”

Chairman of Newry Maritime Association, James McArevey, angrily criticized the Council for failing to look after the restored tram.

“The tram was handed back to the Council and all they had to do was find a location for it and keep it safe in storage.  Now we have this terrible vandalism,” he said.  “To look at that tram all smashed up is a terrible indictment against the custodians of it.  They did not have the vision to secure a site.

“We need, as a community, to tell the Council that their performance is not good enough because there will probably be no accountability regarding this debacle. 

“Words fail me, because to get that restoration job done in the first place was a bonus.  After all that work and effort, there was no significance and appreciation given to it.  There was no foresight and planning,” Mr McArevey added.

Sinn Fein Councillor Roisin Mulgrew confirmed that she has met with Council officials for an update on the situation and voiced her hope that the project will be completed.

She said: “As everyone will be aware the initial location of the tram at the Camlough Road roundabout and the gateway to Slieve Gullion, had to be changed due also to vandalism.  The Council was made aware of Translink’s willingness and indeed eagerness to house the tram at the train station.  This was followed by a number of conversations with all parties involved and the recommendation to relocate the tram was approved at an ERT meeting and unanimously ratified by full Council.

 “I can now confirm that all legalities by Translink have been completed and are due to be forwarded to Council. It is hoped that the tram will be placed in its new location in the coming weeks.

“While the vandalism has been shameful, the damage to the structure has been minimal and will be corrected,” she went on, adding: “I can also confirm that it is the Council’s intention to provide enhanced security on the site which, while necessary, it is a cost which will be borne by ratepayers.”

In a brief statement, the Council said its officers assessed the tram, stating that the damage is ‘superficial’ and said “works will be completed by Council to repair any recent damage to the tram”.