The scene outside the former Shannon Key West Hotel, Rooskey today. Photo: Brian Farrell
Garda technical experts continue to examine the scene of a fire at the former Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey today.
The fire, which "had the potential to cause serious damage," is understood to have broken out at about 7.45pm yesterday evening when a security guard on site raised the alarm.
Supt Kevin English, Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station, who is leading the investigation, told the Leitrim Observer that units of the Fires Service from Mohill and Strokestown quickly attended at the scene and brought it under control.
Gardai are treating the fire as suspicious but are keeping an open mind pending the findings of the preliminary investigation.
Had the fire gone unchecked for much longer, Supt English said, "it had the potential to cause serious damage."
Supt English said thankfully no one was injured.
Traffic restrictions were put in place at the time but they have now been lifted.
Supt English is appealing for assistance from the public. Anyone in the Rooskey area who saw any person or vehicle acting suspiciously between 5.30pm and 8pm yesterday (Thursday) is asked to contact Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station on 071-9650510.
Meanwhile, local politicians have reacted to the events with Martin Kenny TD condemning the attack.
"This appears to be an arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey and it needs to be condemned by all," he said.
"It is a great disappointment for the local community that this hotel has been closed for many years and now for it to be burnt out is a greater catastrophe for the area," he said.
"It is very alarming to consider this could be an arson attack carried out by people with a racist or anti-immigrant agenda; such attitudes are very dangerous and wrong.
"Arson attacks, threats or racism have no place in Rooskey.
"There has been a lot of concerns regarding the possibility of the Shannon Key West Hotel being used as a direct provision centre. The direct provision model is not a good model for the taxpayer or the unfortunate refugees seeking asylum.
"The decent people of Rooskey and surrounding areas are generous and welcoming people and would not want to be associated with this type of behaviour or racist agenda," he said and called on anybody with with information on the incident to assist the Gardaí with their enquiries.
Local councillor, Sean McGowan and Supt Kevin English pictured at the scene this morning. Photo: Brian Farrell
Eugene Murphy TD also condemned the fire attack in Rooskey but said the Government must take responsibility for a lack of judgement on the location for asylum seeker accommodation.
"If, in fact, it proves to be the case that the fire was started deliberately then I would condemn such action out of hand. It is not representative of the Rooskey area and people are outraged," said Deputy Murphy.
“I understand that a security man was in the premises when the fire broke out so there could have been a potential loss of life which is extremely serious," added Deputy Murphy.
The Fianna Fáil TD went on to say however that the Government’s attitude to the people of Rooskey had been nothing short of scandalous.
"The village of Rooskey is particularly close to my heart as I have lived close to the Roscommon side of the village all of my life and I acutely aware of how removed the people of the area feel from this whole process. I had been given a commitment that the Department would meet with the people of Rooskey in relation to this issue just as they met with people in Moville in Co Donegal but then the Department backed down.
"There has been an extremely poor process of consultation and engagement with the community in Rooskey. We cannot continue to operate the present system of direct provision and dealing with asylum seekers by railroading them into small rural villages around the country where there is simply no proper infrastructure in place to meet their needs.
"The Government’s approach of pushing refugees and asylum seekers into small towns around rural Ireland is simply not working- many of these small rural towns are already on their knees and the necessary infrastructure from a transport, educational and health aspect are just not in place and the Government needs to take responsibility for the lack of judgement in relation to this whole approach," said Deputy Murphy.
"Everybody was hopeful that the former Shannon Key West hotel in Rooskey would have been opened as a commercial hotel as it would have provided a much needed injection of hope and been a significant vote of confidence in the area,” concluded Deputy Murphy.
Emergency services at the scene of the fire last night.
Commenting on the matter, Michael Fitzmaurice TD said, "The community of Rooskey has completely condemned the alleged attack on the premises, which was due to reopen as a hotel and as potential accommodation for asylum seekers.
"Genuine concerns had been highlighted in recent weeks that the area itself and the hotel would not be suitable for those vulnerable people due to a lack of primary services. But one thing needs to be made very clear, the community of Rooskey would never condone last night’s suspected actions," he said.
The fire is also a sickening development for the group of investors who were expected to take over the hotel in the near future, Deputy Fitzmaurice added.
"It was hoped that the hotel would reopen once again and provide much-needed employment in an area which has seen a number of factories close down through the years.
"The community and public representatives in the area had pointed out their desire to increase tourism to the area, and the reopening of the hotel would have been a step in the right direction in that regard.
"The people who were willing to invest money in the project must also be acknowledged for their positive thinking. Hopefully the investors will continue to push ahead with their plans to open the hotel once again.
"One thing is for sure, the actions of whoever carried out last night’s suspected arson attack serves nobody and must be condemned,” he concluded.
And Senator Frank Feighan also expressed concern at the damage caused to the former hotel.
"I am very disappointed to learn that the hotel has been damaged by fire but thankfully no-one was injured.
"I will be working with all stakeholders to ensure that the best outcome is achieved in relation to the future of this building.
"I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the emergency services who responded so quickly to the incident last night," he said.