POLITICIANS have condemned a suspected arson attack at a vacant hotel that was being prepared to house asylum seekers.
The fire at the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey on the Leitrim-Roscommon border was reported at around 8pm on Thursday night.
A security guard who was on the premises raised the alarm.
Smoke damaged was caused to the building, which was in the final stages of being converted to a Direct Provision centre for 80 asylum seekers.
Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny called the fire ‘alarming’.
“This appears to be an arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey and it needs to be condemned by all,” he said.
“It is a great disappointment for the local community that this hotel has being closed for many years, and now for it to be burnt out is a greater catastrophe for the area.
“It is very alarming to consider this could be an arson attack carried out by people with a racist or anti-immigrant agenda; such attitudes are very dangerous and wrong.”
He added: “The decent people of Rooskey and surrounding areas are generous and welcoming people and would not want to be associated with this type of behaviour or racist agenda.”
'Conflict and trauma'
In a statement, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire.
However he said his department would not be deterred in providing accommodation for asylum seekers.
“The hotel had recently contracted with my Department to provide accommodation for 80 asylum seekers who have come to our country to seek protection, many of whom have experienced conflict and trauma and are vulnerable,” said Mr Flanagan.
A mindless act that will only galvanise support and assistance to people seeking asylum Ireland, as shown by the response in Moville.
Local communities across the country have lead the way in providing welcome to people and this will continue.
Hate will not win. https://t.co/6djSuTplSy
— Irish Refugee Council (@IrishRefugeeCo) January 11, 2019
He added: “The investigation into the cause of the fire must now take place and I do not wish to speculate at this point.
“It is also too early to say when the hotel might be ready to accept residents. All of the necessary assessments, certifications and any remedial works required must be carried out before we have a clearer timeframe.
“In the interim, my Department will continue to meet our obligation to provide accommodation for persons seeking our protection.”
This evening Mr Flanagan told RTÉ News he was ‘very concerned that this is a suspected arson attack’.
Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said local people were outraged by the incident.
“If in fact it proves to be the case that the fire was started deliberately then I would condemn such action out of hand,” he said.
“It is not representative of the Roosky area and people are outraged.”
The fire follows a similar incident in Donegal last November, when a former hotel earmarked for Direct Provision was allegedly targeted by arsonists