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Gardaí anticipating arrests in arson investigations

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has been informed by gardaí that arrests are forthcoming in connection with arson attacks targeting refugee accommodation in different parts of the country.

He said he was fearful that someone will die as a result of arson attacks.

“There are a number of garda investigations underway and there have been people questioned and searches have been carried out,” he told reporters in Davos, where is attending the World Economic Forum.

“The gardaí have told me that they anticipate there will be arrests in relation to arson attacks around the country and I have to remind people that this is a serious crime that carries a sentence of up to ten years.

“I’ve a real worry that an arson attack might occur in a building and there is somebody inside it. People who are carrying out these attacks just don’t know that for sure, and I’m really fearful that a tragedy like that will happen.”

The Taoiseach said tougher sentences can be expected if a crime is committed which is motivated by hatred towards a certain group in society.

He said the new hate crime legislation would not make attacking a person of migrant status grounds for prosecution, but if there was also a racist element then it would.

He said he was worried about the rise in intolerance in Ireland.

“It’s something I’m concerned about,” he said.

“There can often be a tendency in any society, not just in Ireland, to target people who are different. It might be because of their nationality, their race, their gender, because they’re members of the traveling community, because they live their lives in a certain way.

“Those of us who are in the centre ground of politics, those of us who believe in honest politics, have the responsibility to push back against some of the myths and against some of the ideas that are put about that try to divide people and try to say that other people are different from us, and therefore it’s okay to mistreat them or even engage in violence against them.”

He said some of the growing fears around migration in Ireland was understandable and legitimate concerns shouldn’t be dismissed.

“In some cases there’s an element of racism to it, quite frankly.

“I think this issue has been rising for quite some time. I don’t think it’s something that’s just changed overnight.

“But I don’t think by any means Ireland is a racist country: the vast majority of people in Ireland are willing to judge people by the content of the character, to see them as individuals, and not as a group.”

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