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The convent in Lanesboro, Co Longford, where the fire was allegedly lit. Google Maps.

Building owner in Longford pulls out of agreement to house 85 Ukrainians after fire at property

Two small fires were started a the rear and back entrances to the premises last night.


THE OWNER OF a building where a fire began after it was earmarked to house 85 Ukrainians has pulled out of the agreement with the Department of Integration over concerns regarding his family’s safety.

Gardaí are continuing to investigate the fire that started but brought under control at a disused convent on the Main Street of Lanesboro, Co Longford, last night. 

Local councillors have confirmed to The Journal that the property developer has pulled out of the arrangement this evening.

Independent councillor Mark Casey said: “It’s not right that it (the arrangement) can be forced out like that. Right or wrong, it’s not the right way to do business.”

Casey said the developer had pulled out of the agreement for his and his family’s safety. 

Local councillors in Lanesboro were yesterday informed that the Department of Integration has signed a contract with the private owner of the convent to repurpose the building to provide accomodation to 85 Ukrainian refugees.

It is understood that last night fires were started at the front and rear entrances to the convent. 

“It’s a very intimidating thing to do, let’s hope the [person] is caught,” Casey said.

Fine Gael councillor Gerard Farrell also confirmed to The Journal that the owner has called off plans to house the Ukrainians, who are fleeing war.

The Journal has asked the Department of Integration for comment on the owner’s choice to pull out of the deal and on the alleged arson incident. 

A garda spokesperson said that garda personnel and emergency services attended the scene of a fire at a premises in Lanesboro yesterday evening. 

“The fire was brought under control by fire services. No injuries have been reported. A technical examination of the scene will take place,” they added. 

Casey condemned the arson attack, and said that he “highly doubts” that any potential perpetrator would be “from the local area”. 

He said that rumours had been circulating in the locality about the building being repurposed to house International Protection Applicants. 

“We were called in yesterday and met with the developer and liaison officers. We didn’t have any say in the plans or advance notice of the contract being signed,” he said. 

However, he said he believes protests will not take place in Lanesboro – similar to those that took place in Ballinrobe and Roscrea – as the convent is a “disused building, not a hotel or centre for tourism”. 

The councillor further said that the people of Lanesboro are “law abiding”, and that he could not foresee Ukrainians encountering any “trouble” from local people. 

Plans to develop the building

The convent in Lanesboro was previously owned by the Irish Wheelchair Association for a time from 2000, and was available for use as a community hub by the local Lough Ree community development co-op.

The organisations that availed of the hub at that time included Lanesboro Triathlon, the local boxing club, a summer school, a computer repairs shop, and aerobics & keep fit classes. It also provided incubation units for start-up businesses.

It was sold to a businessman after being put on the market in 2021.

Casey said that there is “anger” locally about a lack of regeneration and redevelopment in Lanesboro and its surrounds over the last ten years, which he says has lead to young people “emigrating out of the area and moving abroad”. 

Farrell said that he had previously advocated for Longford County Council to purchase the premises and voiced his intent to offer to work with the developer of the property.

“I’d like to work with the developer to try and develop something there that will benefit the whole community,” Farrell said.

Casey said that people are wondering why there hasn’t been a Government initiative to provide accommodation in the area. 

With reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill