Gardaí investigating social media posts before Ringsend arson attack

Irish Network Against Racism ‘baffled and frustrated’ at lack of prosecutions for arson attacks and incitement to hatred content

Gardaí investigating a fire that destroyed a building earmarked for the homeless in Ringsend, Dublin, are examining social media posts leading up to the blaze on New Year’s Eve.

Some of the posts involved social media users calling for an attack on the premises in the period before arsonists struck, gutting the disused pub.

The number of attacks, many of them arson, on buildings earmarked for asylum seekers, or rumoured to be used for that purpose, has reached almost 20 in the last five years. There was a sharp rise in the attacks in 2023, with a fire gutting the Ross Lake House Hotel in Rosscahill, near Oughterard, Co Galway, just two weeks before the Ringsend blaze.

A leading anti-racism agency has said it is “absolutely baffled and frustrated” that none of the hate-based arson attacks have resulted in any criminal charges.


Shane O’Curry, director of the Irish Network Against Racism, said he was also surprised there was no static presence, by gardaí or security personnel, at buildings at risk of attack when protests began outside. In many cases, he said, before arsonists struck it had become “obvious” immediate risk had emerged. He had now counted 19 serious incidents of arson or attempted arson over the last five years.

“There have been no prosecutions, no arrests, in relation to those, as far as I can see, and they’ve all emanated from the far right,” he said. The lack of prosecutions also meant members of ethnic minority groups “are becoming increasingly disenchanted” with the Garda’s ability “to make them feel safe”.

While Mr O’Curry said there was broad acknowledgment the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 was inadequate for gardaí to tackle hate-based activity, other legislation could also be used.

In the absence of successful investigations, people’s willingness to report hate-based crimes was decreasing, which was “dangerous”. This was despite greater efforts by the Garda around diversity strategies and other related initiatives.

Mr O’Curry said his organisation, and others, had also compiled information on social media users, including those posting under their own names, for the Garda. However, even though he and his colleagues believed the content met the threshold of incitement to hatred, it appeared none of the suspects identified had been charged.

Garda sources have confirmed to The Irish Times social media content shared before the Ringsend attack was being examined to determine if it met the threshold of the criminal offence of inciting hatred. However, Garda Headquarters said it “does not discuss lines of inquiry being followed in criminal investigations”.

In reply to queries about Mr O’Curry’s remarks, the Department of Justice said the new Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 would “create new hate crime offences for the first time in Ireland”.

It added Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD was “fully committed to the fight against racism, prejudice and bigotry” and urged anyone with information on the recent arson attacks to aid the Garda investigations. The Garda was “doing everything possible to investigate the causes” of the recent fires.

The fire in Ringsend broke out in the early hours of New Year’s Eve at the disused Shipwright Pub and took six fire tenders several hours to bring under control. Gardaí have confirmed the fire was the work of arsonists.

The building was being readied for use as a hub for homeless families. However, far-right agitators began a misinformation campaign in recent weeks, claiming the premises was to be used for international protection applicants.

The investigation team, at Irishtown Garda station, believes members of the local community, many of whom were angry at the arson attack denying resources to homeless families, hold vital information that could help bring the attackers to justice.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times