Union reveals former headquarters was offered for homeless relief three years ago

Union reveals former headquarters was offered for homeless relief three years ago

Trade union Unite has revealed that it offered the building at the centre of a social housing row to a homelessness charity three years ago in order to provide accommodation for homeless people.

The union owns 15 Merrion Square in Dublin, which has been lying empty for three years, and they have said the building was not considered suitable by the groups in question, which included Focus Ireland.

It comes after reports emerged yesterday claiming that a trust connected to the trade union, of which Home Sweet Home campaigner Brendan Ogle is an official, applied to be exempt from social housing for a residential development at its former headquarters.

The application was made by a company called ‘Unite the Union Trustee Company’.

Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, said: "When Unite was initially contacted by RTE’s John Kilraine on Saturday, I informed him that I would respond in full to his queries today (Tuesday).

Union reveals former headquarters was offered for homeless relief three years ago

"This was in order, firstly, to contact the Trust which manages Unite property, and which does not work over the weekend, and, secondly, to enable me to search Unite’s records for the relevant documentation.

"Unfortunately, Mr Kilraine chose to run his story yesterday. Had he waited until today as requested, he might have had a far more accurate story but one which did not accord with his false narrative which included misleading reportage of social housing regulations."

He then confirmed that the union offered the building to house homeless people.

He said: "I can confirm that, when Unite vacated the former Amicus/MSF offices at 15 Merrion Square three years ago, we contacted a number of NGOs working in the area of emergency housing provision and invited them to inspect the premises and assess their suitability.

"The offer was for a three-year period. One of the organisations who took up our invitation, Focus Ireland, came to the conclusion that the Merrion Square building was completely unsuitable for their needs as it stood and would also pose inevitable planning difficulties for their type of service."

Unite’s former headquarters has been empty for nearly three years and was put on the market five years ago for approximately €2m.

The union has questioned RTÉ's motivation in running what it called the "non-story", with Brendan Ogle saying: "RTE’s decision to run a story before they had all the facts is more than shoddy journalism.

"I hope they will give equal coverage to today’s news that Unite offered the premises in question to house homeless people three years ago."

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