‘Chilling’ arson attack on Longford refugee centre could have sparked ‘major fire’

"There are people living beside this building ... this could have been a major, major thing.”
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.56 18 Jan 2024

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‘Chilling’ arson attack on Longford refugee centre could have sparked ‘major fire’

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.56 18 Jan 2024

Share this article

A suspected arson attack on a Longford building earmarked for asylum seekers could have developed into a major incident in the town, a local councillor has warned.

The fires at two entrances to a former Convent building in Lanesborough were swiftly brought under control by emergency services on Tuesday night.

There was little or no damage to the building; however, it is understood the owner of the property has now pulled out of an agreement to redevelop the building for Ukrainian refugees due to fears for his family’s safety.



On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, local independent councillor Mark Casey said it is chilling to see someone intimidated out of their plans for their property.

“If someone was opening up a new shop and the shopkeeper beside him didn't want it, like, does he burn him out?” he asked.

“That is not the way to do business.

“I hope the Gardaí catch the person who lit these fires and they are prosecuted fully.

“This was in the town centre. There are people living beside this building, there's businesses beside this building, we have a local distillery beside the building – this  could have been a major, major thing.”

Lanesborough Garda Station Lanesborough Garda Station. Image: KarlMPhotography / Alamy

Gardaí told Newstalk they are investigating an “attempted criminal damage by fire” incident at the property on Tuesday night.

They said the fire was brought under control by fire services and no injuries were reported.

Cllr Casey said Lanesborough has already welcomed more than 100 Ukrainian refugees – who have integrated very well with the local community.

He said the local population “has no problem with refugees”, suggesting an “outside influence” has been spreading misinformation and mistruths about the plans.


Despite that, he said the way the Government handled the situation was “very poor”.

“Myself and the other local councillors were only informed about it on Tuesday,” he said.

“You know, the builders were already on site and I suppose before that the rumour mills had come out, the Facebook warriors were on and there was all misinformation out there about all sorts of stuff.

“So, no one knew what to believe or what not to believe.”


He said there was a “lot of mistruths” doing the rounds regarding the number of people that would be arriving.

“This was a community building,” he said. “Lanesborough has lost the ESB station as you know. It has lost Bord na Móna in the last couple of years as well. Two big, huge employers.

“Our nursing home has been converted into a refugee centre where we have over 80 Ukrainians, who have absolutely integrated into the society, they're absolutely great people and we have another 20 Ukrainians living locally in local houses.

“So, you know, the local population has no problem with refugees.”


He said some locals have questioned why the building was not repurposed as apartments.

“There's no accommodation in the town for young people,” he said.

“Like, we have 27-year-old people still living with their parents because there's nowhere to rent and you can't afford to buy.

“What one man said to me was his son went to Australia with his partner because they couldn't get anywhere locally and like, why was this building not repurposed five years ago?”

The Department of Integration has been contacted for comment on plans for the building.

Gardaí said a technical examination of the scene took place yesterday morning.

No arrests have yet been made.

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