Fire at Dublin building intended as homeless accommodation confirmed as arson

Disused Shipwright pub in Ringsend was subject of false claims that property was earmarked for asylum-seeker accommodation

A fire in Dublin’s south inner city in a building falsely linked to asylum seekers was the work of arsonists, gardaí have confirmed.

The first results from a technical examination of the blaze, which gutted the building in Ringsend, has determined it was an act of criminal damage.

A major criminal investigation into the blaze has begun at Irishtown Garda station, under a senior investigating officer. Garda sources told The Irish Times they were very hopeful the urban location of the latest fire at a property, incorrectly linked to housing asylum seekers, would aid the investigation.

“Some of these incidents have been in very rural areas but we’re now dealing with a location where there would be more people around and more CCTV covering the scene,” said one source. He added the investigating team was also hopeful people from the local community would come forward with confidential information.


Two weeks ago a fire destroyed the Ross Lake House Hotel in Rosscahill, Co Galway, just days after it had been named by the Department of Integration as an accommodation centre for about 70 people seeking international protection.

However, while far-right agitators had claimed the building in Ringsend was to be used for the same purpose, that information was false.

Instead, the building – the disused Shipwright pub – was being readied for use by Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DHRE) to house homeless families, including some from the local area.

Gardaí have now said they are “aware of a significant volume of misinformation, disinformation and rumour in relation to the use or proposed use of the building”.

When news of the fire emerged in Ringsend early New Year’s Eve, gardaí suspected it was the work of arsonists. Those suspicions have now been confirmed and Garda investigators believe the arsonists aimed to ensure the building could not be used for foreign nationals, even though it was intended for the homeless.

“At approximately 1.55am on Sunday, gardaí responded to reports of a fire at a premises on Thorncastle Street. Dublin Fire Brigade attended the scene and extinguished the fire,” Garda Headquarters said in a statement on New Year’s Day.

“No persons were in the building at the time of the incident. There was substantial damage caused to the property,” the statement added, while also confirming the fire was being treated as “criminal damage”.

Gardaí have appealed for anyone who was in the area at the time, or who may have other information, to contact the investigation team at Irishtown Garda station, or any other station, in confidence.

Gardaí want to hear from anyone who was in the vicinity of Thorncastle St between 1am and 2.30am on Sunday, and who observed any “unusual activity”. Similarly, any road users in the area at that time, especially those recording dashcam footage, are asked to come forward.

Garda sources said a deliberate campaign of false claims about the intended use of the building was orchestrated and though it was “crude” it was “intimidating”. It succeeded in convincing a swathe of people the building was to be used for international protection applicants.

There were a number of protests outside the building in recent weeks and though these were very poorly attended, they involved what one Garda source said were “highly motivated people”, some of whom spread misinformation on social media.

The policing response to the threat of arson attacks drew political criticism from within the ranks of government TDs on Monday. Patrick Costello, Green Party TD for Dublin South Central, said that it was “hard to accept the Gardaí are doing all they can,” pointing to recent evidence at the Oireachtas Justice Committee from Commissioner Drew Harris.

In November, Mr Harris told the committee that it was “impossible” to suggest the Garda should be monitoring every far right network, something rebel backbencher Mr Costello this week said suggested monitoring of violent groups “isn’t up to scratch”.

“This is part of an established pattern of arson attacks. I don’t believe senior garda management are treating this as a priority,” he said.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times