Tuesday 25 April 2017

One person remains in Apollo House as Home Sweet Home occupation ends

The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Cian Murray and Aodhan O'Faolain

The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended as residents vacated the building this morning.

Residents started vacating Apollo House at approximately 9.45am and the majority had vacated the premises by approximately 10.15am. However, one person has stayed in the building following the end of the occupation.

The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Home Sweet Home spokesperson Rosie Leonard said: "As far as we are concerned, everyone was leaving this morning, but I have heard that one person may have stayed when we were leaving."

Ms. Leonard added that each of the residents, including anyone who remained while the majority of the group were leaving, was offered temporary accommodation by Home Sweet Home.  

The end of the occupation was confirmed to the High Court this morning.

Michael Lynn SC acting for the members of the Home Sweet Home Coalition, which was behind the organisation of the occupation, this morning informed Mr Justice Justice Paul Gilligan on Thursday that all persons who had been in the building have left.

Counsel said that steps were still being taken to safely remove the many items of furniture and property that had been donated by members of the public to help the homeless persons staying there, including fridges and televisions,  from Apollo House.

That would take a little more time to complete, counsel added.

In reply Rossa Fanning SC for the Nama-appointed receivers who own the property said the news was "a welcome development."

Counsel said his clients still had to verify that the occupation had ended as they had not yet been able to re-take possession of the property.

The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin's city centre ended Photo: Colin O'Riordan

However counsel said that the receivers would quite happy to assist in any orderly wind down of the occupation.

Following an request from Mr Fanning Mr Justice Paul Gilligan adjourn the matter to 2pm on Thursday when the court is to be updated about the progress of the end of the occupation.

Activists arrived at the gates of the building shortly after the building was vacated.

According to trade unionist and Home Sweet Home co-founder Brendan Ogle, these people have now been rehomed in temporary accommodation of homes and hotel accommodation.

Ogle added that Home Sweet Home's aim from the very outset was "to raise the bar for the minimum standards that have been provided to homeless people and people forced to sleep on our streets in this city. In the last few weeks, what used to be one night beds have gone to six month beds; what used to be cover for 8-10 hours, has gone to 24 hour cover.

"Last week in a meeting with us, Simon Coveney committed to two new hostels... and the state has significantly ramped up the services it is prepared to make available to homeless people because of this campaign and the people behind it."

He also passed reference to the standard of hostel accommodation offered, stating: "We visited the hostels and some of the residents were not comfortable with the facilities in those hostel, so Home Street Home has housed the residents of Apollo House independently."

Ogle went onto thank the volunteers, who "put down their keyboard, went in there and looked after people. They gave people on the street the best and most joyful Christmas they've had for many years. They are heroes in a country in dire need of heroes."

He added that there is a "duty of care" to the residents.

Movie director and activist Terry McMahon, who is an active member of the campaign, added that this accommodation is being completely funded by an online "Fundit" page, before stating that Home Sweet Home is "more than just bricks and mortar".

Mr McMahon added: "The reality is there is a duty of care required here. These people, these vulnerable and courageous people need to be able to access medical or basic food requirements and this government shut down the capacity for that to happen through a court order so it would be irresponsible for us to leave [residents in this building] there. We would be neglecting our duty of care.

Tom Ryan, one of the support workers for Home Sweet Home, has experienced homelessness himself. The man, who is now in temporary accommodation, said that "seeing homelessness on both sides of the fence" is why he got involved in the campaign.

Mr Ryan, who is currently studying Social Studies in college, was one of the people involved in negotiating temporary accommodation for residents.

He said of the accommodation offered: "The standards of these places was absolutely disgraceful. One place, there was no doors on the units. You wouldn't put a dog in it, so how would you put a human being in it."

Home Sweet Home member, Rosie Leonard, confirmed that between 15 and 20 residents left the building this morning.

Home Sweet Home spokesperson Rosie Leonard said 72 residents have now received accommodation for six months, which was previously considered "gold dust".

The building, located on Tara Street and Townsend Street in Dublin offered as accommodation to the homeless.

The announcement that the occupation has ended comes a day after the High Court had dismissed an application by lawyers acting for several organisers behind the occupation to be allowed to stay on in the building for an extra week .

Dismissing the application, which was brought over the suitability of alternative accommodation on offer to homeless people in Apollo House, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said the court "could not get involved in a dispute over the standard of alternative accommodation."

The judge said while he sympathised with the plight of the homeless the court had already found that the occupants had no right or entitlement to be on the premises.

Any issue about the quality of accommodation for homeless people was "a matter for government" and "not one for the courts," the Judge said.

Mr Justice Gilligan had when granting an injunction late last month requiring the residents to leave the building placed a stay on his order allowing the occupants to remain on until 12noon on Wednesday.

Lawyers for the occupants asked the court for a seven day extension on the deadline. The application was brought by them over the suitability of alternative accommodation for the residents had arisen.

While efforts were being made to find suitable accommodation more time, they claimed, was needed so that suitable accommodation can be found for the 25 people who had remained in the building.

The application for an extension was opposed by the Nama appointed receivers who own the building.

Following the judge's decision to dismiss the application for an extension Mr Fanning asked if an assurance could be given that the building would be vacated before the case returns before the High Court on Thursday.

In reply Ross Maguire SC for the occupiers said he could not give such an assurance.

In his ruling on December 21st  Mr Justice Gilligan granted an injunction sought by Tom O'Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars, who were appointed joint receivers over the building by a Nama related company Nalm Ltd in 2014, to vacate the property and restraining the trespass at Apollo House.

The receivers had sought orders against four named individuals they said were involved in the occupation musician Glen Hansard, trade unionist Brendan Ogle and activists Aisling Hedderman and Carrie Hennessy who are all members of the Irish Housing Network group which is part of the coalition.

They had opposed the application for an injunction.

When seeking the injunctions the receivers said the application had been brought over concerns about the health and safety of those occupying the building.

Due to the occupation the building, which has been vacant since mid-2015, no longer has fire insurance and that its public liability insurance will lapse in mid January unless the receivers are able to regain possessing.

The joint receivers were appointed over the property by Nalm Ltd. It acquired loans advanced by Anglo Irish Bank to the building's owners Cuprum Properties Ltd who had defaulted on borrowing of approximately €357,000,000.

The building forms part of a block due for re-development. The receivers want to sell the property in order to deliver the best possible return for the taxpayer

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