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Firefighters at a blaze at a former nursing home in South Dublin early this morning. Dublin Fire Brigade

Senior officer to investigate fire at former nursing home where anti-migrant protests had taken place

The Department of Children was assessing the building for possible use as accommodation for asylum seekers.


A SENIOR OFFICER of An Garda Síochána has been appointed to investigate a fire in a vacant nursing home where anti-migrant protests had recently taken place.

Earlier, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she is “appalled” at what she called an attack on the former St Brigid’s Nursing Home at Crooksling, Brittas, south Dublin.  

Dublin Fire Brigade were called to the scene of the fire at 7am this morning. Over 40 firefighters worked through the morning to control the blaze. The scene has now been handed over to gardaí.

“Earlier this evening, control of the scene was transferred to An Garda Síochána,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“A Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) has been appointed, based at Tallaght Garda station, to investigate all the circumstances of the fire.

Tomorrow morning… a formal examination of the building will be conducted by an expert engineer to assess its safety.

Once feasible, a technical examination will be carried out by the DMR South Scenes of Crime unit, assisted by the Garda Technical Bureau. The results will guide the Garda investigation.

Gardaí appealed to anyone with information about the fire to contact them at Tallaght Garda Station on 01 6666000, the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111, or any garda Station.

Commenting on the incident earlier today, a spokesperson for Minister McEntee said those responsible for the “attack” will be “brought to justice”.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also commented on the blaze, saying he was “very concerned to learn about the fire at a former nursing home in Crooksling”.

“In recent weeks there have been disturbing reports of suspected criminal damage at properties around the country. There is never any justification for violence, arson or vandalism in our Republic. Garda investigations are underway into the incident in Crooksling,” he said in a statement.

“Arson is a serious crime punishable by up to ten years in prison. It is deeply ironic that some of those who try to link migration with crime engage in serious criminal activity themselves.”

A number of protests had been held in recent days and weeks at the entrance to the grounds of the former nursing home, amid rumours that it was to be used as accommodation for asylum seekers and International Protection applicants. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said the property was being assessed, but that it had not been contracted to be used as accommodation.

“An assessment of this property had recently begun by DCEDIY with the agreement of the HSE. This process is at initial stages and the property has not been contracted by the Department,” they said.

The spokesperson also condemned any violence or intimidation towards International Protection applicants and said that the incident was “currently under investigation by An Garda Síochána”.

Minister McEntee said she had been assured by gardaí that “they will do everything possible to complete their investigations as quickly as possible”.

Arson is a very serious crime which carries heavy prison sentences. Very significant criminal damage has been caused in this case and An Garda Síochána will relentlessly chase down those responsible for it in the same way as they are pursuing those involved with other recent attacks.

“The gardaí, the Minister, and the department would encourage anyone with any information in relation to the incident to contact An Garda Síochána.”

Local demonstrations

On a number of evenings this week, crowds gathered outside the grounds, with some holding signs that read “Brittas Says No”. 

According to videos and images posted on social media, there was also a tent erected on Friday with a sign that stated:

South Dublin Says Close The Borders

Earlier, local Fianna Fáil councillor Charlie O’Connor expressed sadness at the blaze in the well-known building.

He told TheJournal that in recent weeks rumours began to circulate in the local community that the building was to be used as accommodation for asylum seekers and people seeking international protection.

A community meeting was held in Brittas on Thursday evening organised by the Brittas Residents’ Association, where O’Connor said people raised concerns that the building was “being considered to accommodate what they called unvetted male ayslum seekers”.

O’Connor said he and other public representatives had contacted Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in recent weeks for information, but that “the response from the department was that there was nothing to be said at the moment and they would come back to us”.

“And one of the things that irked me that for a number of nights there were protests there so my view was if the department was not telling the public representatives and therefore the community what’s going on, how come the protestors appear to have information?”

He said that “communication needs to better” from Government. When asked whether it may be the case that the community was given false information and that this sparked the demonstrations, O’Connor said:

I accept that but at the same time I’m saying they were acting on what they believed to be information whereas the public representatives got nothing.

O’Connor said he would not speculate on the cause of the fire at this early stage, but that it was a significant blaze and “you’d have to presume that the fire just didn’t happen”.

High profile protests

There have been a number of high profile protests held in recent months over buildings that had been earmarked for use by asylum seekers.

As well as this, arson attacks on buildings earmarked for use by asylum seekers and international protection applicants have risen significantly in recent years. In the last year in particular, such attacks have shot up.

In his statement today, Varadkar said that Ireland had a “rules-based system immigration system”.

“Applications for international protection are now being processed in record time,” he said.

All applicants are registered, fingerprinted, checked against certain databases, and the circumstances surrounding their request for protection are examined thoroughly. We aim to treat them with dignity and respect while their applications are considered

He said the country had “robust border controls” and had introduced extra checks at airports. Varadkar also said the Government would “continue to listen to communities”.

Commenting on the blaze this afternoon on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said:

“Well, firstly, can I say that arson, attacking destroying buildings, is a criminal act.

“It is despicable that a criminal action like that is carried out in an atmosphere of… from some people… very ugly attitudes around newcomers asylum seekers and vulnerable people.

So this is a criminal action, the gardaí need to establish what happened, who is responsible and they need to be brought before the courts.

Far right element

A number of well-known far right figures shared information on the former nursing home and protests on social media in recent weeks.

One account had posted on X, formerly Twitter, that a 24/7 blockade had been set up at the entrance to the nursing home.

In recent weeks people also appeared to film themselves walking through the grounds of the nursing home.

One account on TikTok shared a picture of a DFB tweet of the blaze this morning with celebratory music and a picture of the Irish flag. A number of comments on the video celebrated the fire. 

With reporting from Lauren Boland

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