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Tánaiste Micheál Martin says there is merit in having a comprehensive review of security aspects surrounding recent fires. Alamy Stock Photo

'Campaign of arson' on properties linked to asylum seekers is 'unprecedented', says Tánaiste

Coalition leaders are to get an update and review of the situation tomorrow evening.

A CAMPAIGN OF arson attacks on properties linked to asylum seekers in recent times is “unprecedented’ and risking lives, according to Tánaiste Micheál Martin. 

Speaking to reporters in Cork this morning, he said coalition leaders along with the Justice Minister Helen McEntee will get a full update and review of the situation in a meeting tomorrow evening. 

Recent fires at the site of a former nursing home in south Dublin and another site in Kildare are the latest in an escalating series of blazes at buildings subjected to protests by anti-migrant groups.

“We have to review all aspects of the campaign of arson that’s underway, which is unprecedented in the country, and which is risking life and damaging property,” said Martin. 

“In a democracy, that is unacceptable… but the situation is unprecedented,” he said, adding:

There clearly is a campaign underway, and we have to make sure that all resources of the State now are focused on stopping this and also dealing very robustly with those who are breaking the law.

The Tánaiste said that in an “unprecedented situation like this there is merit, in my view, in having a very comprehensive review of this in terms of the security aspects of it and really focusing in on it”.

It is understood ministers will discuss whether tougher measures and greater deterrents can be put in place to prevent such attacks.

McEntee signaled on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme yesterday that there are no immediate plans to change the laws around criminal damage, saying the maximum sentence for arson is life in prison and “you can’t get tougher than that”.

Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman also said today that the magnitude and the seriousness of these crimes cannot be overstated, adding that it is a miracle that no-one has been injured or no-one has been killed.

“That’s why I think it is so important that we give An Garda Siochana the space to undertake detailed investigations, which will allow them to bring forward successful prosecutions so we can very clearly see people put in prison for these criminal acts,” he said.

Decrease in numbers arriving from Ukraine

The minister also confirmed today there has been a significant decrease in the number of people travelling to Ireland from Ukraine. 

The minister said he expected the trend to continue when social welfare payments were reduced to new arrivals using state accommodation.

The weekly rate would be reduced to €38.80 from €220, and new arrivals would also have a 90-day limit on the time they could remain housed by the state.

O’Gorman said that the changes had already had an impact on the number of new arrivals.

“We are already seeing a significant decrease in the number of people seeking temporary protection from Ukraine,” he told RTE’s Today With Claire Byrne show.

“Arrivals from Ukraine are down and I think when we bring in the new system later on this month, I think we will see that trend continuing.

“In terms of international protection, we know that the system of processing applications and the system of accommodating people wasn’t fit for purpose even before the current crisis.

“So myself and Minister (for Justice Helen) McEntee are working on twin tracks. First of all, to speed up the processing of people’s application when they come here so they can more quickly get a determination. Do they get refugee status, do they not?

“And on my side, better accommodation and state-owned accommodation because we are almost entirely reliant on the private sector in terms of the provision of accommodation, and that’s why I brought forward proposals that we would have a core of state-owned accommodation for people while their application is being processed.”

With reporting by Press Association.