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'Extensive damage' Man awaits sentencing for starting a fire under block of apartments in Donegal

Residents had to be evacuated and there was extensive damage caused to an underground car park.

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Rory O'Hara at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Co Donegal. Photo: North West Newspix

Rory O'Hara at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Co Donegal. Photo: North West Newspix

Rory O'Hara at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Co Donegal. Photo: North West Newspix

Dozens of families had to be evacuated from an apartment block after a man set fire to a car with a cigarette lighter, causing €45,000 of damage.

Rory O’Hara appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Co Donegal, where he pleaded guilty to a single charge of arson.

The court was told that shortly before 11pm on November 29, 2018, a fire broke out at Riverfront House on Pearse Road in Letterkenny.

Residents had to be evacuated and there was extensive damage caused to an underground car park.

Gardaí and other emergency services were called to the scene and the fire was brought under control.

It transpired that a car had been set on fire and this caused other damage to parts of the car park.

Gardaí began an investigation and spoke to a number of people at the scene.

One of these people was a man who was riding around on a black mountain bike who was under the influence of alcohol.

From CCTV footage, gardaí noticed the same man entering the underground car park at 10.46pm and leaving again at 10.52pm just before smoke started coming from the building.

They identified the man as Rory O’Hara, who was later arrested and interviewed by Garda Ronan Morris about the blaze.

O’Hara declined to view the CCTV footage but admitted that he had been depressed and was “out of his head” during the incident.

The accused has a number of previous convictions relating to burglary and theft and had previously served a month in prison, the court was told.

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The car which was destroyed in the blaze belonged to a Josephine Doherty, who was socialising at the Station House Hotel at the time.

The owner of the car park, Dermot Gildea of Gildea Developments, put the overall estimate for damage at €44,996.

This figure included damage caused to the property, lighting and an air-conditioning system.

Barrister for the accused, Shane Costello SC, said O’Hara was abusing drugs, including cannabis and spice, at the time of the incident.

He said it was a “serious but bizarre” crime and that O’Hara had little recollection of it, although he did admit he set the car seat on fire with a lighter.

Judge John Aylmer has adjourned the case for final sentencing.

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