The Minister for Justice has strongly condemned an arson attack on the home of a garda in Co Louth last night.

The garda, his pregnant wife and their two children, aged under ten, were in the house when the attack took place at around 11pm.

A man ran up to the house and threw a device that set trees and the side of the house on fire. The heat of the blaze cracked the windows.

The children were taken from bed and the family escaped without injury but remain severely traumatised.

Charlie Flanagan said he was shocked to learn of " the callous attack" which he described as "disgusting" and "sinister".

He also appealed to anyone with information to contact the gardaí.

It is the third such attack on the home of a garda in the Dundalk area in the last 18 months.

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú also condemned the attack. He said: "If a neighbour hadn't seen the fire and warned the family we could have been dealing with something much more serious."

The Garda Representative Association has described the attack as abhorrent.

The garda, his pregnant wife and two young children aged six and eight had to leave the house as the fire took hold.

GRA President Jim Mulligan said it was not acceptable that gardaí doing their duty are being attacked and intimidated.

"Someone could have died last night and there would be a very different scene this morning," he said.

Mr Mulligan said these attacks put a particular strain on families and he said whatever resources were needed to tackle the gangs involved in these attacks must be put in place.

In a statement GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis said: "On behalf of all GRA members, I extend our support to the affected garda.

Mr Ennis added: "I urge anyone with information about this attack to contact gardaí."

The scene has been preserved for a forensic and technical examination.

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Gardaí are asking for people who were in the Bay Estate area of Dundalk between 10.30pm and 11.30pm yesterday to contact them.

They are also seeking information on a white van seen in the estate at around 3pm yesterday.

Gardaí believe the attack is connected to the garda's work.