The Minister for Justice has accused some protesters of being “complicit” in recent arson attacks on vacant buildings by not passing on relevant information to gardaí about those responsible.
Helen McEntee said that gardaí are making good progress in their investigations and the Government will be “absolutely relentless” in supporting An Garda Síochána to track down those who carried out the “vile crimes”.
However, she said that investigations could not just be left to gardaí.
“There are people right across the country, -. By not coming forward with information, you are complicit.
“I am calling on those who have information to come forward before these fires cost somebody their life.”
Ms McEntee said that people who carry out arson attacks need to known that the crime carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Her comments come after Honeywood, a seven-bed dormer bungalow in Leixlip, Co Kildare, was badly damaged after being set alight by protesters in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Minister McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris have been invited to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice to discuss the rise in attacks.
Committee Chair James Lawless said he wants to meet them to ensure that gardaí and the Department of Justice have the resources required to bring people to justice.
The Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North told RTÉ’s News at One: “Arson under Section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 is already an offence carrying up to a life sentence – so we don’t need new laws, we need to implement laws that we have.
“I want to see prosecutions, investigations, detections. We know it takes time.
“This needs to be nipped in the bud … somebody could be killed – that’s the next thing that’s going to happen.”
Mr Lawless said that many people have legitimate questions and concerns when it comes to accommodation, but a “small cohort” are taking advantage of people’s fears.
“What’s frustrating is when those questions are answered, as they were here, and in other cases, that in fact this building was not envisaged for refugee accommodation, the protest continues and the momentum continues and then we see an arson attack.
“The first response is a determination to say that this does not represent the people of Leixlip, they do not in any way endorse this, they are actually quite appalled.
“There’s a fear out there that any building could be targeted, this [Leixlip] was done completely based on inaccurate information so no building is safe and this is a criminal act,” Mr Lawless added.
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People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy accused the Government of doing “almost nothing” in response to the arson attacks during heated Dáil exchanges on the issue.
Mr Murphy said there have been 26 arson attacks in the last five years on premises rumoured to be used by asylum seekers, adding: “We should call what it is – far-right terrorism in this State.”
He claimed the Government was “dancing to the tune” of far-right agitators by cutting financial supports to Ukrainians and seeking to charter more planes to deport asylum applicants.
The coalition’s recent action “… cedes more and more ground to the far-right, and legitimises their arguments,” Mr Murphy added.
In reply, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath lambasted Mr Murphy for making what he termed an “outrageous contribution”, something he suggested that would make “the work of the gardaí more difficult.”
He said the Government “utterly condemns any criminal act”, and suggested the best thing that politicians could do was to affirm the work of the gardaí who were doing everything they could to deal with the matter.
Mr McGrath said it was also important to note that these were “difficult crimes to solve”, adding that these crimes ran a real risk of “taking human life.”
He said the Government had responded as “comprehensively as possible” to the arrival of 100,000 people coming from Ukraine “due to Putin’s invasion.”
Additional reporting Paul Cunningham