Gardai are hunting at least two arsonists who set a blaze inside a proposed asylum seeker centre.
Cops believe that the fire, at Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, Co Leitrim, was started by the pair who smashed their way into the building through a rear window.
They then set a fire in an effort to burn down the building, despite the presence of a security guard in an upstairs room. He was able to flee the scene.
It comes just weeks after a similar incident at a proposed asylum seeker centre at Caiseal Mara Hotel in Moville, Co Donegal.
A source said: “Gardai are investigating the links between this and the Donegal incident.
“There is extensive smoke damage inside the hotel but thankfully the fire did not take hold.
“The security guard was safe and was able to get out of the property.”
The Shannon Key West hotel was to be sold to new owners this week.
It was at the centre of a High Court dispute over plans to turn it into a refugee camp. The blaze at the 39-room hotel was reported at 8pm on Thursday.
The property is the subject of proceedings between Paradub Ltd, which wants to develop it as tourist hotel, and businessman James Kiernan, owner of the property.
The hotel closed in 2011 and Paradub claims it entered into an agreement to buy the hotel for €600,000 from Mr Kiernan.
Paradub initiated High Court proceedings in 2017 after it discovered from local media reports a plan had been put in place to use the property to house asylum seekers.
The company claims this breaches the purchase agreement and is an attempt to frustrate the sale of the property.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “deeply concerned” at the reports of the fire.
He added: “I wish to commend the emergency services and An Garda Siochana for their quick response to the incident, which undoubtedly minimised the potential damage to the hotel.
“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. The final preparations were being made in the hotel for their arrival.”
Minister Flanagan said he was glad that there were no residents in the property during the blaze.
He said: “A security guard, who was on the premises, was not injured and managed to raise the alarm.
“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.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has also condemned the suspected arson attack on the former Shannon Key West in Roosky which saw a fire break out in the building last night.
He said: “If in fact it proves to be the case that the fire was started deliberately then I would condemn such action out of hand. It is not representative of the Roosky area and people are outraged.”
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