Gardai are probing a suspected arson attack at a house in Swords which destroyed a sensory garden created for a four-year-old girl with special needs.
Louise O’Keeffe, 34, returned to her home in Holywell on Sunday only to discover little Ella’s playhouse, toys, bouncy castle, sand pit, pool, bike and slides had been deliberately set on fire.
The mum-of-two told Dublin Gazette: “I’m completely devastated. Who in their right minds would do this? The kids are gutted. Ella has special needs and many serious medical conditions and she goes through enough on a daily basis without someone doing this to her.”
Gardai are investigating the incident after initial inspections found an accelerant was used to start the fire in the back garden.
Meanwhile the local community has rallied to support the family donating bikes and toys, and an online appeal has been set up to replace Ella’s things.
Louise said: “The support has been unreal. I had people I don’t even know offering to send out gift vouchers. I just want to get the garden back up and running for Ella as soon as possible.
“It’s just not fair on her to come home to that. She’s lost without it. She needs to be out in the garden, she needs her water play, she needs her sensory play.
“She’s looking out and crying to go out the back garden because that’s what she does. She’s not allowed out because it’s a mess and she can’t understand why.
“It’s part of her daily routine and it’s so important to her, she can’t be without it. There’s no way she could comprehend any of this.”
Ella suffers from a very rare chromosome disorder called neuro fibromatosis microdeletion syndrome.
The neurological condition causes tumours to grow through the nerve system and she has to undergo regular medical checks. Due to her condition she has severe autism, intellectual disability and significant developmental delays. Louise bought the playhouse to create a safe space for her.
Last year Louise co-founded the support group RARE to help other parents.
She said: “My little girl’s garden is her world. Ella is a flight risk, she has no sense of danger so I can’t bring her to the park. I have the garden as a sensory haven, it’s all done especially for her.
“It’s her happiness, it’s her world and now it’s gone.”
A GoFundMe campaign set up by Louise’s sister has raised €565 of its €1,500 target. To donate click HERE.