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The former Shipwright pub in Ringsend. Dublin Fire Brigade

Man appears in court charged over New Year’s Eve arson attack at former Ringsend pub

The old Shipwright Pub went on fire in the early hours of New Year’s Eve amid rumours it would be repurposed and used to house immigrants.

A CRANE DRIVER charged with arson of a former pub earmarked for homeless accommodation in Dublin 4 is accused of causing more than €2m worth of fire damage, a court has heard.

The old Shipwright Pub on Thorncastle Street in Ringsend went on fire in the early hours of New Year’s Eve amid rumours it would be repurposed and used to house immigrants.

Gardaí and six units of Dublin Fire Brigade rushed to the scene and brought the blaze under control.

Steven McDonnell (49) of Cambridge Park, Ringsend, was charged with causing damage to the former pub by fire, contrary to section two of the Criminal Damage Act.

The father of four, who denies the allegation, appeared before Judge Fiona Brennan at Dublin District Court yesterday/today (Thur).

He was held in custody until he takes up €2,750 bail with strict terms.

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Kelly of Irishtown station told Judge Brennan he arrested the man at his home at 7.18 am on Thursday.

He added that the accused “made no reply” when charged with arson of the premises.

The officer objected to bail due to the seriousness of the case. Detective Sergeant Kelly said, “In excess of €2m worth of damage was done as a result of the fire, and there was also potential for the fire to spread to the adjoining building where people were residents”.

The court heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions has directed trial on indictment, meaning the case will be dealt with at the Circuit Court.

Detective Sergeant Kelly agreed with defence solicitor Tony Collier that his client had lived at his current address for about 15 years.

The bail hearing was also told he was married with four school-going children.

The solicitor said Mr McDonnell “asserted his innocence in relation to this case,” and the officer agreed it would take some time until the trial.

Mr Collier suggested there could be a two-year wait.

Pleading for bail, the solicitor told Judge Brennan that his client, who did not address the court, was the main breadwinner for his family, held down a responsible job, and the court heard he had surrendered his passport.

Mr Collier said his client was deeply rooted in his community, and the court heard he had no prior convictions.

Detective Sergeant Kelly asked the court to impose conditions if bail were granted.

Judge Brennan set Mr McDonnell’s bond at €250 but also stipulated that he must lodge €2,500 or have independent surety with that amount approved.

Once bail has been taken up, he must sign on three days a week at his local garda station, stay away from Thorncastle Street and Fitzwilliam Street, not apply for new travel documents, and have no contact by any means with the pub owner.

Mr Collier said his client agreed to the terms. However, he asked the court to remove the requirement for a €2,500 lodgement or surety, saying it may be difficult for Mr McDonnell to obtain that amount.

He added that his client was a man who would turn up to court.

However, the judge refused and said she had noted the objections and that the accused had significant links to his community.

Legal aid was granted.

Mr McDonnell was remanded in custody with consent to bail to appear again on March 27, pending the preparation of a book of evidence.

The defence said it would be difficult for his client to obtain the money, and it may take a couple of days before he can take up bail.

At the time of the fire, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive prepared to use the property for homeless families, including some from the local area.