Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar today condemned the “arson” that allegedly took place at a hotel that was to host asylum seekers near Galway, saying there was “no justification for the violence”.

A fire broke out on Saturday night at around 11.35pm at the Ross Lake House Hotel in Roscahill, County Galway, west Ireland.

The police, who started an investigation, spoke of a “criminal incident”.

The hotel in question, out of use for years, was to host nearly 70 asylum seekers in the coming days. Protesters opposing the hotel’s opening had already blocked its entrance on Saturday during the day to protest.

“I am deeply concerned (…) by this alleged criminal damage to a number of properties across the country intended to house people seeking international protection, including in County Galway last night Leo Varadkar said in a statement. “Nothing justifies violence, arson or vandalism in our Republic. Never.”

Irish Integration Minister Roderick O’Gorman called the incident “deeply disturbing”. “Political officials of all stripes should condemn this shameful act and the fear-mongering statements that prompted it,” he said.

The director general of the NGO Irish Refugee Council, Nick Henderson, has called for a “thorough investigation”, saying there is now “a recurring pattern of arson” in reception areas for asylum seekers and refugees.

Their housing has become a particularly sensitive issue in Ireland in recent months. This country of five million inhabitants has received 101,200 people on its territory from Ukraine, of which 74,500 are hosted in state structures.

A lack of affordable housing and a cost-of-living crisis have fueled resentment against newcomers.

In late November, the city of Dublin was rocked by unprecedented riots, which the authorities attributed to far-right unrest, after a knife attack in which four people, including three children, were injured.

The government specifically blamed the spread of rumors on social media, with some netizens claiming the perpetrator was an “irregular immigrant” or an “Algerian citizen”.

Ireland, which has already expressed its difficulty in providing shelter to all asylum seekers for the winter, announced on Tuesday that it was reducing its support for Ukrainians trying to escape the war.