Protesters had been told Leixlip house targered in arson attack was not earmarked for asylum seekers, say gardai

The property in Leixlip, Co Kildare, was seriously damaged in an arson attack in the early hours of Wednesday.

Gardai said they told protesters outside a house in Co Kildare that it was not going to be used to house asylum seekers, but were not believed and the property was later set ablaze.

The property in Leixlip was seriously damaged in the arson attack in the early hours of yesterday.

The house was rumoured to be planned accommodation for asylum seekers.

The building, according to gardai, was the subject of a “significant volume” of misinformation, disinformation and rumour in relation to its use.

Gardai investigating the attack said they were working with other Garda stations that were investigating similar incidents across the country.

The seven-bedroom detached house in Leixlip was wrongly linked to housing for asylum seekers.

A forensic examination of the property was taking place and gardai were reviewing CCTV footage.

The property, which had been vacant, was partially set on fire last week.

Superintendent Georgina Gray, of Leixlip Garda Station, said that a major investigation into the arson attack was taking place.

She said local gardai were aware that false information had been circulating online about the property.

“That information or that rumour was there beforehand, and protests had been taking place, local protests, very peaceful,” she added.

“We, the guards, had engaged daily with those protests. We engaged with the property owner, we engaged with local representatives here. So there has been a lot of engagement ongoing for the past few weeks to dispel any of those rumours and allay any fears that people would have.

“We had been doing regular patrols when we became aware that there may be an issue at that property.

“We were doing daily patrols up there and an investigation did take place and was continuing in relation to that first attack up at that house.

“We had liaised with the property owner, provided crime prevention advice, and indeed got our own crime prevention officer to liaise with the property owner in relation to things that he could do to help prevent any further attacks on the house.”

Gardai said they had visited the protests and spoken to people outside the property in recent weeks
Garda stock Gardai said they had visited the protests and spoken to people outside the property in recent weeks (Niall Carson/PA)

She appealed to the public to contact gardai if they had heard any misinformation or had any concerns.

Superintendent Gray added: “We’re in the early stages of the investigation. Misinformation does not help and especially in a local community, it can create fears amongst the public.

“We say to people, please do not listen to any information and come to us here or your local public representative.”

She said that gardai had visited the protests and spoken to people outside the property in recent weeks.

“It’s very difficult for the public when rumours are going around, and myths and misinformation. We did engage, but unfortunately, the fears were there for people and they just weren’t satisfied that it wasn’t going to be used for that purpose,” she said.

But she would not comment on whether she believed the attack involved outside elements or whether it was part of a nationwide effort to attack buildings earmarked for housing asylum seekers.

“I will say, we are linking in with other investigation teams around the country to follow that line just in case,” she added.

She also said that the property owner had taken on some of the security advice and had been in the early stages of protecting the property when it was attacked.

“Leixlip is a lovely community area. Leixlip gardai, and indeed all gardai, work endlessly to ensure that the public feels safe,” Superintendent Gray added.

“We are absolutely out there investigating this but not just investigating it, engaging with the public and reassuring them with our presence that we are there, we won’t tolerate it.

“It’s a serious criminal act, which will not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, three people have been arrested by gardai investigating an arson attack at a building earmarked for homeless accommodation in Dublin.

The former pub in Ringsend in Dublin was set alight on New Year’s Eve amid speculation it was going to be used to house international protection applicants.

As part of the investigation, four houses were searched under warrant on Thursday morning during an operation in the Dublin area, gardai said.

Two men, aged in their 30s and 50s, and a woman aged in her 20s, were arrested and a number of items of evidential value were seized, including electronic devices, in the course of the operation.

All three were being questioned at a Garda station in the Dublin region.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on properties that have been linked to housing for refugees.

The latest arson attack comes days after vacant buildings in Brittas in Co Dublin were set alight.