St. Mel's Cathedral, the landmark building in Longford town, has been gutted in an early morning fire. Longford Fire Service were alerted to the scene after passer-by contacted the presbytery at 5am on Christmas morning
The emergency services work at the scene was delayed by the weather conditions, with the water in the pipes frozen as overnight temperatures dipped to -10.
It's believed that the fire started at the rear of the building and spread towards the front.
Crowds gathered and watched in horror as the flames ripped through the roof of the 150-year-old building, eventually gutting the interior, and destroying artefacts and historical items dating back to the last century.
Speaking today, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O'Reilly said it was a dreadful day for him personally and quite devastating. Bishop O'Reilly said that construction began on the Cathedral in the 1840 and he described it as a flagship Cathedrals of the midlands.
He said it was an extraordinary achievement at the time. He said that the building was so central to Longford's history.
Bishop Colm celebrated midnight Mass last night to a packed Cathedral in what people at the scene remarked was one of the best in many years.
A garda crime scene investigation unit has arrived at St Mel's cathedral in Longford to begin an investigation into the cause of a fire there this morning.
Christmas day Masses are being said at the nearby Temperance Hall.