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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 22 November, 2019

Children's soccer referee accused of €1.8m arson attack at Flyefit gym in Dublin denied bail

Two staff members were in the gym when it was set alight in Coolock in July 2016.

The scene at the gym on the Malahide Road following the fire.
The scene at the gym on the Malahide Road following the fire.
Image: Dublin Fire Brigade/

A CHILDREN’S soccer referee has been refused bail after he was charged with carrying out a €1.8m arson attack on a Dublin gym.

The Flyefit 24-hour gym in the Coolock Retail Park on the Malahide Road was gutted by fire after a car was driven through its front door and set ablaze.

The incident happened in the early hours of 25 July 2016, Dublin District Court heard.

Mark Harte, 25, with an address at Collins Avenue East, Clontarf, Dublin, was brought before Judge Brian O’Shea charged with arson.

He had returned to Ireland after completing a university soccer scholarship in the United States.

Objecting to bail, Detective Garda Neil Plunkett said the offence can carry a maximum life sentence.

He said it was alleged the incident happened at 2.20am when a car was driven through the door of the Flyefit Gym and was then doused with a flammable substance before being set alight.

Two staff members were working in the premises at the time.

The court heard the car was “engulfed in flames” and the fire spread throughout the building causing approximately €1.8m worth of damage.

The incident was captured on CCTV cameras.

Detective Garda Plunkett alleged the front seat passenger in the car got out carrying a plastic container. 

It was alleged he ran to the front of the gym and gave a hand signal to the driver who drove through the front door.

The court heard claims the car was covered with a liquid and set on fire.

Judge O’Shea heard the two fled but gardaí recovered gloves and a DNA profile.

Pleading for bail, Michael French, defending, said his client had every intention to remain in the jurisdiction to face this allegation head on.

He said the accused was a young man who had been a football player.

He had spent some time at the University of Tennessee on a soccer scholarship but had returned home. He said his client was a referee and still involved in referring under-age matches.

He has also completed a Safe pass course and was looking for work as a labourer.

Judge O’Shea noted the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed trial on indictment meaning the accused will face trial at Circuit Court level.

He said the allegations were very serious and given the gravity of the charge he refused bail.

Harte, who did not address the court, was remanded in custody to appear at Cloverhill District Court on 17 September next.

A book of evidence must be completed by the DPP and then served on the accused before he can be returned for trial.

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Tom Tuite

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