National organisations working with asylum seekers, and local representatives in Co Galway have spoken out against the alleged arson attack on the vacant Ross Lake House Hotel.
Approximately 70 international protection applicants were due to move into the disused hotel this Thursday, however at about 11.35pm on Saturday evening, a blaze broke out, extensively damaging the building.
A protest had taken place there earlier that day against the plans to house asylum seekers in the area.
“This fire fits a clear pattern of arson attacks of locations where protection applicants were due to be accommodated or actually living. There must be a full investigation. Our unswerving solidarity and support is with all people seeking protection and refugees at this fearful time. Leadership, local and national, is more important than ever,” said a statement from the Irish Refugee Council this week.
It continued: “The actions of a small minority will never succeed, but they cannot be underestimated and this must be a turning point. Let us also not forget that they are in contrast to the proud history of welcome that communities across Ireland, including in Galway, have shown over the last 30 years.”
Limerick-based migrant rights organisation Doras said on X (formerly Twitter): “It’s absolutely vital that politicians act responsibly now, and that they ensure communities know asylum seekers have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. They should be welcomed, provided with a safe place to rest, and not rejected or excluded.”
The Wheel issued a statement saying: “Following the fire this weekend at Ross Lake House Hotel in Rosscahill, Co Galway, The Wheel wish to extend our support to the people and communities impacted, and our members working within these communities. All lives are interdependent, therefore we must focus on building communities and solidarity.
“We hold dear the values of inclusivity, collaboration, courage, and accountability and commend our many members, and the wider community and voluntary sector, who choose to support those who need us most.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Ministers Helen McEntee and Roderic O’Gorman were also among those who have condemned the suspected arson attack.
Galway-based Senator Pauline O’Reilly commented on social media: “I’m disgusted at this fire in my constituency and at the attitude of local politicians over the past couple of days. I beg of people to show their common humanity.”
Later speaking to This Week on RTÉ Radio One, she added: “There are ways – by speaking to your politicians – of getting your point across but blockading a place, making people feel unwelcome when they are being legally accommodated somewhere is unacceptable in my view…It isn’t a conversation, it’s just bully-boy tactics.”
She added that “if someplace is vacant then it should be used to accommodate people and we can’t discriminate between the types of people that we want to accommodate”.
At a meeting on Monday, the elected members of Galway County Council unanimously backed a motion stating: “That this council affirms its support for the right of International Protection Applicants to seek asylum in Ireland, and that this right should be exercised without harassment or intimidation or fear thereof.
“We utterly condemn the alleged criminal damage of property. We call on the Department to improve their method of engagement and consultation with communities. We call on all community leaders to lead by example and alleviate fears, not stoke them.”