'This should be treated as a hate crime': Concern expressed after fire at hotel earmarked as Direct Provision centre

The cause of the fire is not yet known, and an investigation has been launched by gardaí.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 11th 2019, 2:10 PM

JUSTICE MINISTER CHARLIE Flanagan has said he is “deeply concerned” about a fire that occurred at a former hotel earmarked as Direct Provision centre in Rooskey. 

Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, believes the incident may have been a hate crime. 

The fire broke out at the Shannon Key West Hotel, along the Leitrim-Roscommon border, shortly before 8pm yesterday. 

Gardaí and emergency services attended the scene. A security guard who was on the premises raised the alarm.

The blaze was brought under control but caused smoke damage to the building. No one was injured in the incident. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Superintendent Kevin English of Sligo Leitrim gardaí said: 

I can confirm that there was an on-site security man employed at the Shannon Key West Hotel. He was the person that first detected the fire and immediately notified his employers who contacted gardaí immediately.

The disused hotel was earmarked as a Direct Provision centre and was due to accommodate 80 asylum seekers from this month. The building was the subject of a High Court dispute last year.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, and an investigation has been launched by gardaí. Diversions will remain in place until after a technical examination has been completed.

Superintendent Kevin English told Virgin Media News that there is a certain amount of smoke damage at the general reception area of the hotel along with some smoke damage to the first floor. 

English did not comment on reports that petrol had been spread inside as it is still early in the investigation. 

“All aspects of this incident are currently the subject of a Garda investigation,” a Garda spokesperson said.

Anyone with information has been asked to contact Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station on 071 965 0510.

This is the second fire to occur at a hotel which had entered into a contract with the Department of Justice to house asylum seekers – the first was in Moville, Co Donegal at the end of November.

Asylum seekers 

Flanagan commended emergency services and gardaí whose “quick response … undoubtedly minimised the potential damage to the hotel” in Rooskey.

“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,” Flanagan said. 

The final preparations were being made in the hotel for their arrival. Thankfully, there were no residents in situ when the fire broke out. 

Flanagan added that he did “not wish to speculate at this point” about the cause of the fire.

“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,” he stated.

‘This should be treated as a hate crime’

Nasc strongly condemned the incident, which it believes was racially motivated.

“If it is found that the fire in Rooskey was caused by arsonists, it should be investigated and prosecuted as a hate crime,” Nasc CEO Fiona Finn said. 

Whoever did this does not speak for Irish people; they are fostering hate and intolerance.

“We know that the vast majority of Irish people are aware of what’s happening globally and at Europe’s borders, and that Irish people are by and large sympathetic to the plight of people forcibly displaced and seeking protection in Ireland.”

Communities not consulted 

Finn called on the Department of Justice to consider alternatives to the privatised Direct Provision model for the reception of asylum seekers, saying the current system is “not fit for purpose”. 

Private companies are paid millions of euro to run DP centres around the country. 

“Communities do not feel like they are being consulted, there are concerns about the distribution of resources and locating large capacity centres in small villages in remote areas…

We feel for the communities where this is happening, where they feel legitimate concerns are not being listened to and illegitimate concerns are allowed to fester and intensify.

“But even more so, we feel for every asylum seeker around the country today, who has woken up to the news this morning feeling scared and isolated,” Finn said. 

With reporting from Adam Daly 

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