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High Court orders alleged squatters to leave Dublin property


An image from inside the premises on Prussia Street owned by McGrath Group posted on Instagram/thatsocialcentre

An image from inside the premises on Prussia Street owned by McGrath Group posted on Instagram/thatsocialcentre

An image from inside the premises on Prussia Street owned by McGrath Group posted on Instagram/thatsocialcentre

The High Court has ordered that alleged squatters at a property in Dublin which was the scene of a stand-off last month vacate the site immediately.

Numbers 23-28 Prussia Street in Stoneybatter had been used for various businesses when it was bought by businesswoman Mary McGrath in 2003 and continued to be used for those businesses, including car sales and mobile home sales until 2018.

In October 2018, Dublin City Council brought High Court action over fire safety concerns about a number of people who were living in mobile homes on the site. They were ordered to vacate the site and did so.

Today, Mr Justice Senan Allen granted a further interim order that persons unknown now in occupation of the property vacate it immediately and not interfere with efforts by Ms McGrath to secure vacant possession. The application, by Peter Shanley BL, on behalf of Ms McGrath, of Upper Mount Street, Dublin, was made on a one side-only represented basis.

Ms McGrath, in an affidavit, said she is to lodge a planning application to build 162 apartments in one block on the site and needs access to it to finalise drawings for the application.

She said after the property was vacated following the 2018 court order, it was secured, electricity disconnected and wiring removed so that it could not be reoccupied.

In early September last, she became aware a number of individuals had broken in and changed the locks.

A social media account called "thatsocialcentre" also appeared saying "we have occupied an empty corner of Stoneybatter" and that it was time once again to take a space "left to rot by the profiteers" and to turn it into a place of "energy, community and resistance".

Other posts from the same Instagram account advertised a "practical squatting night" at the property and sought donations to help build and improve to what was called "Sunnyvale".

Ms McGrath said visits by two people on her behalf, including one delivering the previous High Court order prohibiting occupation of the site, were met with intimidatory and aggressive behaviour.

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She said she, her brother PJ McGrath, and a number of her employees arrived at the site on October 27 last to find eight people apparently occupying three camper vans and a shed there.

The occupants were given time to gather up their belongings and leave. Others also arrived to remove belongings and did so accompanied by gardaí who, Ms McGrath said, had been called by one of the occupants.

Ms McGrath said the defendant unknown persons subjected gardaí and the McGrath employees to violence. Missiles were thrown from the roof of number 23 including a bar stool which hit the head of one McGrath employee, she said.

Later in the day, some 60 people had gathered outside the gate and the defendants were inciting the crowd with loudhailers, she said.

Gardaí had to form a human barricade to prevent the crowd attempting to break in the gate, she said.

Since then, she said, it appears the defendants have taken back the property. Electricity has been haphazardly connected to provide light and bonfires have been lit beside what are flammable material, the court heard.

Mr Justice Allen said the previous court order prohibited the use of the site for habitable purposes. There had been communications with someone who holds himself out to be "thatsocialcentre" and the evidence was there was squatting there, he said.

It is more or less a derelict site with caravans and lean-to shelters and it is being used for parties at which bonfires are lit, he said. There was also an illegal connection to the electricity supply shown by photos provided to court, he said.

He was satisfied the use to which the site is being put is in breach of the 2018 court order which applied not to just those in the site then but to anyone with notice of it. Those now in occupation are bound by the order, he said.

He made directions on how the papers were to be served and adjourned the matter to next week.

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