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Friday 22 March 2019

Millionaire made offer to Home Sweet Home activists to buy Apollo House for homeless

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

An Irish-American millionaire offered to buy Apollo House to allow it to be converted into a homeless shelter.

Ken Peterson, a telecoms entrepreneur, made the offer last weekend to Home Sweet Home activists who occupied the Nama-owned building for four weeks. He was prepared to buy the building from receivers acting for Nama for an estimated price of €7.5m. The plan was to lease the building to a registered charity such as the Peter McVerry Trust, which would operate it in association with the Home Sweet Home group.

The offer was put to Home Sweet Home and Dublin City Council last weekend, but was overtaken by events when the High Court ordered activists and homeless people to vacate the occupied building.

Mark Kellett, chief executive of Peterson's Dublin-based company Magnet Networks, confirmed that the offer to acquire a suitable building for use as a homeless shelter remained on the table.

Support: Ken Peterson's proposal is still available
Support: Ken Peterson's proposal is still available

The occupation was led by activists who intended to get homeless people off the streets for Christmas. It captured the public imagination, while celebrity support from singer Glen Hansard and film director Jim Sheridan brought global attention.

Peterson was alerted to the occupation by Brian Reilly, a Malahide businessman and a board member of Magnet Networks. Reilly also co-founded the Right2Homes group, which is mounting a constitutional challenge against the legislation that allows financial institutions to repossess family homes.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, Brian Reilly said he had been forwarding news reports to Ken Peterson in the US. "We discussed the Apollo House purchase idea over the phone last weekend. I received confirmation from him on Sunday morning," he said.

"I got an email saying that he could help but the project would have to be embraced by all parties and have the approval of the authorities."

Reilly passed on details of the offer to Brendan Ogle and later to Jim Sheridan, and raised the issue informally with Dublin City Council. The offer never went further after the High Court decision to order the group out of Apollo House.

Since the occupation ended last week, more than 80 homeless people who stayed at Apollo House have been accommodated by the State.

Sunday Independent

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