Fire caused extensive damage to Hope Castle
Townpeople in Castleblayney were shocked on Thursday morning last by the news that a fire had swept through the 18th century historic Hope Castle building on the scenic Lough Muckno Estate, adjacent to the town, in the early hours of the morning, causing extensive interior damage.
The alarm was raised by gardai on an early morning mobile patrol, and when they sped to the scene they found that a huge fire was raging inside the building.
Fire units from all the neighbouring towns were called, including Dundalk, where the Co. Louth-based fire service brought along a special hydraulic platform for use in fighting high-rise outbreaks.
The 18th century castle which was operated as an hotel, with a function room, guest-house and bar area, up until last year, was unoccupied on Wednesday night, when it appeared entry had been gained by trespassers to the ground floor, and the fire started.
Gardai believe a group of teenagers had forced entry into the building and started the fire.
Within a short time, the blaze ripped through the bar and lounge areas, through the stairs, and unto the upstairs’ rooms, causing complete destruction to furnishings and many hugely valuable antiques .
A considerable amount of the fittings, furniture, and antiques destroyed belonged to local businessman Mr. Chris Haren, to whom a continuation of the lease on the property from the owners, Monaghan County Council, was confirmed some months ago by the High Court.
Gardai later questioned a number of juveniles about the fire, but the HSE recently pointed out, in correspondence to Castleblayney Town Council, following a meeting of the Joint Policing Committee, that under law, the identity of any juvenile, or anything that might identify the particular location of any care centre for young people, cannot be published.
Castleblayney Town Council held a special meeting on Thursday night at which the Town Mayor Cllr. David Funcheon strongly condemned the outrage .
He said it was hoped that funding could be provided for the restoration of the historic building. All the councilors present joined the officials present in condemnation of the disastrous fire.
The Mayor of Co. Monaghan Cllr. Jackie Crowe (Blayney) said the entire community deplored the damage caused and losses sustained as a result of the fire.
Cllr. Joe Brennan said in a statement yesterday he also wished to condemn the disgraceful act that led to the destruction by fire of the interior of such an historic landmark premises.
He said many people had already expressed outrage at the damage caused to the most iconic building in the town, coming after an earlier fire which destroyed the Annex building, located beside the castle, some time ago.
He said Castleblayney was now left with five derelict buildings—Hope Castle, the Annex, the Courthouse, and two Gate Lodges—and his fear was that the Courthouse could be the next target for another disastrous town fire.
Cllr Brennan said that at the special meeting called last Thursday, the Town Manager Mr. David Fallon assured them that the County Council would be addressing the situation relating to Hope Castle as “ a priority”.
Cllr Brennan said he hoped the fire would not impede the positive work continuing in the Lough Muckno area, including the car park, and the provision of significant funding for improvements, including a children’s play area, roads surfacing, and the provision of fishing stands.
He added that it was up to everyone to work together to ensure Muckno Park reached its full potential and he wished Mr. Declan Connolly, new Chairperson of the Muckno Community Partnership, and all stakeholders every success in their ongoing efforts. He also hoped the Muckno Park could be reopened soon, having been closed for safety reasons, in the wake of the Hope Castle fire.