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Fire tears through house that was earmarked as new home for sex offender

A COUNCIL HOUSE earmarked to house a Wicklow sex offender's family has been burnt out.

The council house, in Wood View estate in Ashford, Wicklow, has been at the centre of a public outrage after it was revealed it was selected as a new home for a convicted sex offender.

The fire is understood to have started in the front sitting room and spread to an upstairs bedroom late on Sunday evening.

Concerned residents have been protesting in an attempt to stop Wicklow County Council housing the man in council housing estates, with four failed attempts in the last month alone to place the man in a house.

Approximately 100 people were around the house when the fire broke out.

"A group of protesters have been there since Friday, but a lot of people are disappointed at this conclusion," a local source said.

"This started out as a peaceful protest but all of their work has gone down the bin."

"It's completely unliveable now."

Units of Wicklow and Rathdrum fire brigade were called to the scene and managed to get the fire under control after about an hour.

Labour councillor Jimmy O'Shaughnessy said that the residents had been staging an organised but controlled protest at the house over the past number of days.

"They were keeping an eye on the place," he explained. "I was down there myself, the residents were understandably concerned, but it was all peaceful.

"We were given the assurance that this man's family would not be housed there, but then on Friday the housing officers tried to move them in. It was a very bad decision, for safety reasons, for everything."

"There is outrage, but there was no violence.

"It's a sad day if this has happened, if this is the way it ends.

"There are 4,300 people on the housing list in Wicklow, many with a very high priority."

There is a motion going before Wicklow County Council that councillors should get at least 10 days' notice of anyone moving into a housing estate who has a conviction.

"And I don't know if this is legal or not, but I am investigating if it is possible that anyone who has a sex offence should not be considered for local authority housing at all," Mr O'Shaughnessy added.

It's understood that the individual in question was found guilty of the unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor dating back to the early 1990s and had been given a six-month suspended sentence at Rathdrum District Court in September 1992.