Update – 5.20pm
Gardaí are investigating the circumstances of a fire which caused extensive damage to a section of a protected building in Co Clare.
The blaze at the old Our Lady’s Hospital in Ennis was reported at around 6.00am when emergency services received a number of 999 calls.
Three units of Clare County Fire and Rescue Service from Ennis station responded to the incident at Dulick on the Gort Road.
On arrival, fire crews found a large section of the building’s entrance area ‘well alight’ with flames bursting through the roof. It’s understood each level from the basement to the roof area have been affected by fire while sections of the roof have collapsed into the upper floor of the building.
Fire crews used a hydraulic platform to tackle the blaze from above and while the fire has been brought under control and contained to one section of the facility, firefighters continue to deal with small pockets of fires in different areas of the building.
The circumstances of the blaze are unknown and it wasn’t immediately clear whether there were any persons inside at the time. Fire crews will carry out a detailed search of the building when officers are happy that it’s safe to do so.
Gardaí also visited the scene this morning and are expected to launch an investigation in the cause of the fire which at this time is considered to be suspicious.
The fire service has responded to several fires on the site since the former HSE psychiatric hospital closed in the early 2000s including one in 2017.
The building is a listed protected structure in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan and also forms part of an Architectural Conservation Area. The building was constructed in the 1860s.
Ownership of the site has changed hands a few times since the building was sold by the former Mid-Western Health Board in 2002. Separate plans to develop the 16 acre site as a hotel and a private hospital never came to fruition.