Dozens of families had to be evacuated from a building after a man set a car on fire with a cigarette lighter, causing €45,000 in damage.
Ory 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 11 p.m. on November 29, 2018, a fire broke out at Riverfront House on Pearse Road in Letterkenny.
Residents had to be evacuated and an underground car park suffered extensive damage.
Gardaí and other emergency services were called to the scene and the fire was brought under control.
Turns out a car had been set on fire causing further damage to parts of the parking lot.
Gardaí opened an investigation and spoke to a number of people at the scene.
One such person was a man who was riding a black mountain bike under the influence of alcohol.
From CCTV footage, Gardaí noticed the same man entering the underground car park at 10:46 p.m. and leaving at 10:52 p.m. just before smoke started coming out of the building.
They identified the man as Rory O’Hara, who was later arrested and questioned by Garda Ronan Morris about the fire.
O’Hara declined to view CCTV footage, but admitted he had been depressed and “out of his mind” during the incident.
The defendant has several previous convictions for burglary and theft and had already served a month in prison, the court heard.
The car that was destroyed in the blaze belonged to Josephine Doherty, who at the time frequented the Station House Hotel.
The owner of the car park, Dermot Gildea of Gildea Developments, put the overall damage estimate at €44,996.
This figure included damage to property, lighting and an air conditioning system.
The defendant’s attorney, Shane Costello SC, said O’Hara was using drugs, including cannabis and spices, at the time of the incident.
He said it was a “serious but bizarre” crime and O’Hara had little recollection of it, although he admitted to setting the car seat on fire with a lighter.
Judge John Aylmer adjourned the case for final sentencing.