Police have announced that an investigation will be launched into the fire which burnt the former Cork Magdalene Laundry.
The Good Shepherd convent complex caught fire on Tuesday morning and the structure was gutted.
The Irish Independent reports that the blaze is being “treated as suspicious and a possible arson attack.”
Five fire brigade units fought the fire which was detected before 7am. The Sunday’s Well area in Cork was shrouded in black smoke and ash. Residents in the area fear that the damage to the building is so complete that it will have to be demolished.
Victor Shine, Cork City Fire Service Third Officer, told the Irish Times, “We were met by a substantial section of building, approximately 50 meters of the convent section well alight, from the ground floor up through to the roof.
"The total floor area of the building has collapsed on itself - you’re left with the outer perimeter structure of the building - [the] bricks, ceiling and roof have collapsed in."
The building was used for over 100 years as an orphanage and a Magdalene Laundry, a home for unmarried women who had become pregnant.
Tom Coleman, a local resident, said everyone in the area was dreading an event like this.
“This isn’t the first fire that has been there. But it is a sad day to see such a fine building destroyed. The fire was appalling. I only thing I can see now is that the building will have to be demolished,” he said.
The convent was also home to Ellen Organ, an exceptionally holy child, who has been venerated as “Little Nelly of Holy God”. She is buried next to the convent.
There were plans to develop the structure into luxury apartments. However, these plans fell through when Ireland’s property market collapsed. It is now being administered by KPMG on behalf of a British bank.