The Taoiseach has led condemnation of a suspected arson attack on a vacant hotel in Rooskey, Co Leitrim, intended for use as a reception centre for asylum seekers.

An investigation is under way into the suspected attack on the 'Shannon Key West Hotel' on the Leitrim-Roscommon border. Gardaí have appealed to the public for information.

Speaking in Ethiopia, Leo Varadkar said hostility to migrants did not represent Ireland, and that Ireland has benefitted enormously from migration over the years.

He also said that fears should not be dismissed.

"It’s important that we not be dismissive of people who have concerns about migration. Migration is a good thing, Ireland has benefited enormously from migration, in my view. Migrants help run our public service, they make our economy stronger, but it does need to be managed," the Taoiseach said.

The 39-bedroom hotel has been the subject of significant controversy since the Department of Justice confirmed proposals before Christmas to provide accommodation for 80 asylum seekers there.

Two people broke into the premises between 7-8pm yesterday and attempted to spread flammable liquid in an area near the stairway.

Superintendent Kevin English told RTÉ News the alarm was raised by a security guard on the premises before 8pm.

He said the security guard’s response ensured that no major damage had been done. 

The fire caused extensive smoke damage to the building, which is located on the Leitrim side of the river Shannon bridge.

Nobody was injured in the incident (Pic: Eoghan Murphy)

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has said he is very concerned that the fire may have been the result of arson.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, he said he is sure that everyone throughout the country would condemn lawlessness of this nature.

The Minister said he accepts that people have a right under law to protest and air their views however, breaches of law or the acceptance of what appears to be a form of vigilantism, is totally unacceptable.

Mr Flanagan said people are arriving on our shores seeking international protection and we have an obligation as a state and a people to look after them by way of the provision of basic services and shelter while applications are being processed and decision are made.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the community of Rooskey condemned the attack.

The Roscommon-Galway TD said: "It was very disappointing to see video footage and photos from the scene emerge on social media last night after the fire was detected.

"The community of Rooskey has completely condemned the alleged attack on the premises.

"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."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station on 071-9650510.

The building's owner, James Kiernan, has said he is deeply upset after viewing the damage caused by the fire.

It is not yet clear whether the plan to provide accommodation for the people seeking asylum at the hotel can now go ahead.

Representatives of Paradub Ltd, the company that was due to complete the purchase of the property this week, have also visited the scene, but were unable to survey the damage due to the investigation being carried out.