Fire tears through Irish hotel where 70 migrants were due to be housed

17 December 2023, 12:18 | Updated: 17 December 2023, 15:37

File photo
File photo. Picture: Social media

By Kit Heren

A fire broke out at an Irish hotel where 70 migrants were due to be housed, hours after an anti-refugee protest was held outside the building.

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Police are investigating the blaze at the Ross Lake hotel in Galway, in the south of the country, which they have called a “criminal damage incident by fire”.

The 19th century building was empty and no one was hurt in the fire, which took place late on Saturday night. The flames were later under control by the fire brigade.

The hotel in Rosscahill, which has not been in use for a number of years, was due to accommodate 70 asylum seekers from next Thursday.

A protest was held outside the hotel on Saturday against the plans to host migrants there, with activists trying to blockade the entrance.

Read more: Irish police blame 'lunatic far-right faction' for Dublin riots after three children and woman stabbed

Read more: UK will create more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers 'once numbers are under control', deputy PM says

“The incident happened at around 11.35pm and afterwards fire services brought the fire under control.

"There were no persons inside the building at the time of the incident. The scene has been preserved and a technical examination will take place later today.”

Local councillor Noel Thomas said the fire caused devastating damage, adding that "it's a very sad day for an awful lot of of local people from the area.

He told local paper Galway Beo that "it was an iconic building, wedding events, christenings, occasions, birthdays all took place at that hotel.

"I myself got married in that hotel. It holds a lot of memories for a lot of people in the community."

Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman described the incident as "deeply disturbing".

He said: "Politicians across the board should condemn this disgraceful act and the fear-mongering that led to it."

The chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council said there has been a "clear pattern of arson attacks" on locations where protection applicants were due to be accommodated or actually living.

Nick Henderson said: "We call for a full investigation. Our unswerving solidarity and support is with all people seeking protection and refugees at this fearful time.

"Leadership, local and national, is more important than ever.

"The actions of a small minority will never succeed and we must remember the proud history of welcome that communities across Ireland, including in Galway, have shown over the last 30 years."

The Department of Integration said it is working to offer shelter to those fleeing war and persecution and condemns any violence or intimidation towards International Protection applicants.

A spokesman said: "All those seeking protection have a right to safety while their application is examined.

"The Department also strongly condemns any alleged attempts to drive division and hostility towards those who come to Ireland seeking asylum. Acts such as these achieve nothing but endanger people's lives and homes."

Police are appealing for anyone who may have information regarding the fire to contact them at Clifden garda station on 095 22500, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or at any garda station.

It comes just weeks after anti-migrant riot in Dublin sparked by an Irish citizen believed to be of French-Algerian origin attacking children with a knife, seriously hurting a five-year-old girl.

Three children and a creche worker were stabbed outside a nursery in the city.

Police cars were set on fire in the "unprecedented" disorder that followed, shops were looted and burned and fighting broke out in the streets.

Police blamed a ‘lunatic hooligan faction’ for the violent scenes, fuelled by speculation about the nationality of the attacker.

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