A Donegal hotel earmarked to welcome more than 100 asylum seekers was set on fire in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The blaze broke out at the Caiseal Mara Hotel in Moville at around 4am just hours before a meeting to arrange a welcome party for the asylum seekers was held.
Local firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control.
Garda Inspector Goretti Sheridan confirmed that the fire had been started deliberately. There was substantial damage to the hotel’s reception area and smoke damage throughout the building.
A Garda forensic team spent Sunday examining the scene of the attack while they are also compiling hours of CCTV footage in and around the hotel on Foyle Street.
One man, understood to be the owner of the hotel, was injured in the attack and taken to Letterkenny University Hospital.
His injuries are not understood to be life-threatening.
His daughter was also understood to be in the building at the time of the attack but was not injured.
Nobody has yet been arrested or questioned in relation to the attack.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State for Equality David Stanton issued a joint statement condemning the arson attack, with Mr Flanagan saying it was a “despicable incident and could have led to very serious tragedy”.
Mr Stanton added: “I deplore this attack. The hotel is being prepared for accommodation by persons seeking international protection in Ireland.
“That people would target such a building in this way is deeply shameful. This action is not at all representative of the welcome of the overwhelming majority of people in both Donegal and Ireland as whole.”
A large meeting of local residents concerned about the lack of information on plans to bring the asylum seekers to Moville was held last week.
The vast majority of people welcomed the move but some expressed reservations about infrastructure and the lack of information surrounding the plan.
Moville has a population of about 1,300 people and many were concerned about the impact the arrival of another 100 people would have on the town.
On Sunday, more than 150 people attended a meeting in the town’s Methodist Hall to show their support for the asylum seekers following the fire. Many said they were horrified by what had happened.
Local resident Enda Craig said no right-thinking person could condone this “shameful act”.
Local county councillor Martin Farren said he had spoken with Eugene Banks, Principal Adviser at the Reception and Integration Agency, and he confirmed the hotel was still intended to be used as a direct provision centre.
“He said he will assess the damage and will assess when the building can be ready for these people but it will still be going ahead,” Cllr Farren said.
Cllr Farren said that while he condemned the attack, he was immensely proud of the town’s reaction to the incident.
“I said that the people of Moville would respond to the needs of these people and they have. We obviously condemn this attack but I felt immense pride in the people of Moville today who stood behind these people.
“We will welcome these people as we said we would and nothing has changed because of that.
“It was heartening to hear so much goodness and kindness spoken at the meeting.”