Editor's Note: The following is a blog post originally published by Shannon Kincaid on May 24 and reposted here with her permission. It shares her and her family's side of the story of the fire at their property in Rosscahill, Co Galway last December.

Tragedy struck our family on the evening of Saturday, December 16th, 2023, when a merciless fire engulfed our property in Galway. 

It was an act of arson, a suspected hate crime, ignited by someone(s) who did not agree with a possible government appropriation of our property to house displaced refugees. Someone set fire to our home, leaving our family with nothing but the charred remnants of our cherished memories.

To back up, in June of 2022, my husband Allen, myself, and our children, Obie, Kincaid, and Arden, packed up everything we had from our lives in Texas and moved across the Atlantic to Galway, Ireland. It was a dream that our family had for many years — a fairytale, actually. 

While originally from Texas, we have had a presence in Ireland (and Galway specifically) since the 90s. Allen brought me to Ireland to buy our wedding rings in 1996 in honor of my Irish heritage. Our son, Kincaid, has been living in Galway since 2008. Following Allen’s retirement from his career in gynecologic oncology in Dallas, we decided to take the leap and start a whole new life together.

Following an unexpected change in his health in November, Allen and I made the difficult decision to return to the United States for a medical treatment not currently available in Ireland. Once this decision had been made, we put our property on the market. In the end, we planned to sign with a company that intended to lease the property for its own purposes.

It was this company — not us — who was negotiating with the government for a contract to provide refugee accommodation. 

Upon receiving this news, embellished with words that stoked further rage, fear, and resentment, (words such as “unvetted,” “African,” “males”) on Friday, December 15th, local protestors swung into action. The protesters placed felled trees and a shipping container on the private road shared by us and our few immediate neighbors in order to block any access to our property. They also used concrete blocks and boulders to add to the obstruction, as well as cutting through the cattle guard at the entrance of our property to further limit access. 

The police are still investigating who, in fact, then lit the property on fire late Saturday night, but it seems most likely it was a group of people sharing similar sentiments as these protestors.

Footage of the fire spread on social media.

Footage of the fire spread on social media.

In any case, these obstructions made access by any emergency vehicles from police or the fire brigade impossible, allowing the fire to take a large portion of the property down to its steel frame.

In the end, it took two 200 meters length of hose for the firemen to be able reach the fire. It’s my understanding that they didn’t get past the shipping container which is a quarter mile from where the fire was.

One thing should be crystal clear: this was an intentional act of violence directed at us intended to make a statement about the Irish government’s position on immigration.

Note: This is a position Ireland is obliged to hold and is a responsibility all E.U. member nations face, or they will be slapped with heavy fines.

Not knowing much about immigration in Ireland before this incident, and knowing a lot more now, it’s my opinion that it’s Ireland’s moral obligation to find accommodation for these people. At that time, there were hundreds of them living rough or in tents in cold, wet, wintry Ireland.

The fire at our home prompted one of the largest criminal investigations in Ireland and received global media attention. However, as mentioned previously, there was misinformation and disinformation being circulated throughout social media and news agencies that described our property as an abandoned hotel — simply an empty building that was burned to the ground — and that we as “greedy Americans" / “Jewish globalists” profited off of polluting the rural countryside of Connemara. 

In reality, the property had not been abandoned and was being prepared for a major renovation to restore it to its former glory as a private home. 

In the meantime, we were living in a small cottage on the property and while we were completing the architectural plans for the renovation to our permanent home, the hotel served as a place for our family to store everything we brought with us from America, which has since been reduced to rubble and ash.

The only thing left standing after the fire that burned all of our belongings was a statue of an angel I had bought from a Mexican sculptor who works with concrete, which doesn’t burn.

As many of you know, I’m an artist. I had over 150 large oil paintings in addition to hundreds of watercolors, pastels, and sketches stored at the property — my entire life’s work. 

Included in that art was the largest collection of Irish dancing art in the world. My son, Kincaid, is a professional Irish dancer who traveled the world with Riverdance and currently teaches with the prestigious school in Galway that trained him. I started painting this collection nearly 30 years ago, featuring everything from dance classes, competitions, gigs, and festival performances. It was my intention to have a book made of this work titled “The Art of Irish Dancing” after which I planned to donate the original paintings to the Republic of Ireland. 

This suspected hate crime resulted in not only the destruction of a beautiful historic Irish property but also the loss of an important artistic contribution to Irish culture as seen through the lens of traditional Irish dancing. It makes no sense to me how destroying one of their historic country homes honors Ireland.

My daughter, Arden, also embraced her Irish heritage as the 2022 Texas Rose of Tralee, an international festival held every year in Ireland dedicated to celebrating women throughout the globe who have Irish ancestry. While live on RTE television being interviewed by Dáithí Ó Sé, Arden explained our family’s reverse migration story and spoke of how we were fulfilling a dream by moving over together. Once our family arrived in Ireland, she created a TikTok and Instagram account dedicated to our new home in order to document the entire restoration and renovation process. After only a few posts, she received upwards of 30,000 followers who were interested and excited about the project.

Following the public outcry and arson, Arden received hundreds of threatening messages online. Accounts from Twitter / X and Instagram have received millions of likes and comments in support of this violence. The atrocious comments will not be given further air time here. The added fear and stress that this has brought to our family cannot be overstated.

It’s been shocking and hurtful to see this kind of hate directed at us and humiliating to be accused of being traitors. 

Since our fire, at least two other locations have also been set on fire. One was slated to house homeless people. Irish homeless. I’m worried someone is going to get hurt or killed if something isn’t done to stem this rising tide of resentment.

A few weeks after our fire, another facility in Roscrea was due to receive dozens of people who had to be escorted by the Garda Riot Squad because of the size of the crowd that had assembled there, protesting their arrival. Guess what? The new arrivals were children. Natives shouting at little kids, children, who were displaced victims of war.

For those of you who know us — whether you are friends of our family from our time in Texas or Ireland, or you know us from the world of Irish Dance or the Rose of Tralee community — you know that we are an incredibly tight-knit, loving family and would never support the kind of ideologies that would enact violence or hate crimes against other groups and communities.

Now, more than ever, after this sort of unbelievable violence was perpetrated against us, we are thankful for our inherent resilience and optimism and know how fortunate we are to still have each other and our lives.

We know that these actions are not representative of Ireland as a whole.

We love the fact that we are Irish.

We know what it means to be Irish.

And this isn’t it. 

With that in mind, I am compelled to recount a speech in Dublin in the summer of 1963, by a returning great-grandson of the Famine, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. "From 1851-1921, nearly 3.8 million people left Ireland for the United States. What was it that got so many families through subjugation, through starvation, through mass eviction, through exile, through Know-Nothing's persecutions? Epochs of tragedy broken only by temporary periods of joy....what was it that made people like Thomas F Meagher never lose faith? The quality of the Irish is," JFK concluded, "the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination...Praise for one of the youngest of nations and one of the oldest of civilizations."

While this whole awful incident would make a remarkable chapter or two in our autobiography, this story is much bigger than just our family. It’s the story of the world right now. Nationalism runs amok, xenophobia, resentment, fear of change, dehumanization of people, and distrust of anyone perceived as “other.”

We all know things like this are happening the world over but it’s abstract because it is so far away. When something like this happens to you personally, you still can’t wrap your head around it. It’s still, and I suppose always will be, surreal.

As for our family, we will be ok. We are ok. There’s only one way to triumph over tragedy and death and that’s by making our lives masterpieces. 

Speaking of which, there’s this thing in art, the chiaroscuro — there’s the way light shows in darkness. It is extremely beautiful and I think it essentializes the experience of being human; seeing light in darkness. It is so much more beautiful in that place.

It’s in the moments when everything seems so dark that the most beautiful things happen. One thing’s for certain; what we lost in that fire, we will find in the ashes.