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'We still want asylum seekers', says town after hotel is torched

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The cordoned-off hotel

The cordoned-off hotel

The cordoned-off hotel

The people of a small Co Donegal seaside town have come together to stand behind a group of asylum seekers after an arson attack at the hotel where they are to stay.

The first set of an overall intake of 100 refugees were due to arrive in the Inishowen town of Moville in early December.

However, a huge shadow was cast over the plan after the fire attack on the Caiseal Mara Hotel in the early hours of yesterday.

Welcome

The torching, which damaged the reception area and smoke-damaged the entire building, came just hours before the meeting to arrange a welcome party for the asylum seekers.

The meeting went ahead, with more than 150 people turning up to show their support for the forthcoming arrivals.

A Garda forensic team spent yesterday examining the scene of the attack while they are also compiling hours of CCTV footage in and around the hotel in Foyle Street.

One man, understood to be the owner of the hotel, was injured in the attack and taken to Letterkenny General 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.

Many of those who attended the meeting in Moville's Methodist Hall, organised by Failte Inishowen, said they were horrified by what had happened in their town.

Over 150 people were at the meeting and all those who spoke reflected an eagerness for the Direct Provision plan for the displaced people to go ahead in Moville.

The principal of Moville Community College, Anthony Duggan, said it was ironic when the Inishowen town was preparing to put up its Christmas tree that such an act should happen.

He added that the arson attack meant that the Christmas message of welcoming had been completely lost as a result.

Local county councillor Martin Farren said that while he condemned the attack he was immensely proud of the reaction of the people of Moville to the incident.

"I said that the people of Moville would respond to the needs of these people and they have," he said.

"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 being spoken at the meeting."

Councillor Farren said he had spoken to Eugene Banks, Principal Adviser at the Reception and Integration Agency, and he had confirmed the Direct Provision Centre will be going ahead at the hotel.

Assess

"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," he said.

Donegal Intercultural Platform spokesman Paul Kernan said yesterday: "We hope there will be a speedy assessment of the damage caused and prompt repairs made so that the families can find a welcome shelter before the Christmas holidays."

Nobody has yet been arrested or questioned in relation to the attack.

Gardai in Buncrana are leading the investigation. They are appealing for witnesses, asking anyone with information or anyone who was in the area who may have seen suspicious activity in Foyle Street before or after the fire to contact them.


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