Gardaí investigating fire after ‘misinformation’ spread online saying building was to be used to house asylum seekers
The Department of Children and Integration has confirmed there is no plans to build refugee accommodation at a disused school building in Dublin which was set alight yesterday evening.
Gardaí are investigating a suspected arson attack on the vacant Victorian-era building in the inner city.
They were alerted to the blaze at Rawlton House, a former boys school on Sherrard Street at around 5.40pm.
The fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported.
Concerns have been raised by some elected representatives that the building may have been attacked because of a rumour that it was being repurposed to house asylum seekers.
In a statement issued to Independent.ie, a spokesperson for the Department of Children said: “The building is not contracted by the Department.”
Local Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said he is aware that “rumours had been going around that it was to be allocated to refugees, but the department itself knew nothing about it”.
You can have protests, we live in a democracy – but when you bring it to this next level of attacking buildings… this is just so unacceptable
“I had previously made representations regarding the building, saying it was unsuitable to house people there,” he added.
Independent north inner city councillor Niall Ring saw the same rumours posted on social media in recent days and said it’s understood the building may have been “targeted” for that reason.
“All the windows were smashed and I'd say there was an orchestrated attack on the building. To be honest, the locals are absolutely disgusted about it, they're shocked," he said.
“It seemed there was one of these rumours put around… A sinister development I would call it. Yes ,you can have protests, we live in a democracy – but when you bring it to this next level of attacking buildings… this is just so unacceptable, and the genuine people around there want to be disassociated from that.”
Mr Ring also criticised the Department of Integration for what he described as its “appalling communication”, saying they “have to engage” with members of the public to “counter these rumours”.
He said Dublin City Council has granted planning permission for 10 apartments to be built on the site and those units are “badly needed”.
“It’s just so inherently contradictory, you know ‘let’s destroy places where people could live’. It just doesn’t make any sense and it’s just so unacceptable. People around that area just ordinary, decent people going about their daily work and they’re absolutely appalled by that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam said there is “no way” the building could used for temporary accommodation, as it is currently in a state of significant disrepair.
“It’s very clear for me, from being in the building before Christmas, there’s no way in hell anyone would have been able to stay or been housed for even an hour, let alone a week, a month or a year in the condition that Rawlton House is in before the events of last night – let alone what condition it’s in now,” he said.
Mr McAdam said there are rumours “going around” about every vacant building in the city and there are "those who are stoking fear left, right and centre”.
“I don’t know if there was a sole reason for what happened last night, or if certain individuals saw it as an opportunity to cause trouble and they grabbed that opportunity… It’s a senseless act,” he added.
Gardaí are seeking witnesses to the blaze, which is being investigated as “suspected criminal damage by fire”.
Investigations into this incident are ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Fitzgibbon Street Garda station on 01 6668400, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.