Man charged with threatening to burn down asylum seeker accommodation

Stephen O’Rourke, a supporter of the anti-immigration National Party, was ordered to stay 500 metres away from the hotel

A Co Kildare man has appeared in court charged with threatening to burn down a hotel in Athy being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

Stephen O’Rourke, a supporter of the anti-immigration National Party, was ordered to stay 500 metres away from the hotel when he appeared in court on Thursday afternoon.

He was also ordered not to contact its staff or residents.

Mr O’Rourke (43), who lives in the town, had been helping to organise an anti-asylum protest planned for Athy on Thursday night, one of about a dozen demonstrations scheduled to take place around the country. He was arrested outside his home in Athy on Thursday morning as part of a Garda investigation into alleged threats to cause damage to the hotel.


The alleged incident took place at the Abbey Hotel, Stanhope Street, Athy, on Monday. Foreign nationals applying for international protection were moved into the hotel this week.

Mr O’Rourke appeared at a special sitting of Naas District Court charged with threatening to commit arson on the Abbey Hotel last Monday. He is also accused of two counts of trespassing.

The accused was remanded on bail to appear before the District Court again on February 14th.

Gardaí said earlier a report was made to them after a man entered a residential property on Stanhope Street in Athy and engaged in “alleged threatening behaviour”.

The Department of Integration and Youth said families are being housed in the Abbey Hotel complex as well as some single women and children. It is understood there are 94 places in the complex, which will be operating as a direct provision centre for at least the next seven weeks.

On Thursday afternoon, gardaí took up position outside the hotel as part of a local policing plan to monitor the protest. Garda sources said the policing plan in Athy, as well as those at a number of other locations in Dublin and Kildare on Thursday, had been put in place to ensure peaceful protests.

In response to Thursday’s demonstrations, the Department of Integration criticised any protests “which are intimidating vulnerable International Protection applicants who have fled war and persecution and are causing fear and distress for centre staff and management.”

A Department of Justice spokesman said the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the Constitution but that this must be balanced with the State’s duty “to protect the public and uphold law and public order”.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris said the protests “have bordered on intimidation” of adults and children “many of whom are traumatised because of the circumstances from which they are seeking protection”.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times