Occupants told to leave by January 11

McVerry and Hansard among those to address court on issue
Occupants told to leave by January 11

A High Court judge has ordered those occupying Apollo House, a vacant office building in Dublin city centre, to leave the premises by January 11.

The building, located on Tara St and Townsend St, was taken over last week by activists under the Home Sweet Home coalition which then offered it as accommodation to the homeless.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan yesterday granted an injunction sought by Tom O’Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars — appointed joint receivers over the building by a Nama-related company, Nalm Ltd, in 2014 — to vacate the property and restrain the trespass at Apollo House.

The judge said he was placing a stay on his order on condition those occupying Apollo House undertake that no more than 40 people use the facilities, that the receivers would be entitled to access and supervise the property at all times, and that the defendants would co-operate fully with the receivers.

The judge noted arguments made on behalf of the group, including a statement from Fr Peter McVerry, about the homeless crisis and the suitability of accommodation being offered to rough sleepers in the city.

The matter will be back in court on January 12.

The injunctions are to remain in place until the full hearing of the action.

Mr Justice Gilligan said the receivers were entitled to the injunctions. The occupants, he said, were trespassers and had occupied the building to highlight the plight of the homeless.

The “law was clear” in regards to an ongoing trespass and the rights of the receivers who had charge of the property, he said. The courts “must apply the law”. The exceptional circumstances that would allow the court not to grant the orders did not exist in this case.

Lawyers representing four of the activists had sought a six-month stay on the order. The receivers’ lawyers favoured a stay measured in days rather than weeks.

Opposing the application, Ross Maguire said he was representing four occupiers, musician Glen Hansard, trade unionist Brendan Ogle, and activists Aisling Hedderman and Carrie Hennessy, who are members of the Irish Housing Network group, which is part of the coalition.

Mr Maguire urged the court to use its discretion and not grant the orders sought because It would put the 40 homeless people who have been staying in the building back on the streets.

He said his clients disputed the receivers’ claims that there is sufficient and suitable accommodation available for homeless people in Dublin City.

Mr Maguire said that as the property was in effect owned by Nama, Finance Minister Michael Noonan would also be contacted about making some of Nama’s property portfolio available for the homeless.

Fr McVerry said Apollo House “did not present a long-term solution to the human crisis of homelessness” but was “hugely significant in its contribution to addressing the issue.”

He said he could not agree with Dublin City Council’s assertion that there are sufficient beds available to all residents of Apollo House should it have to close.

Ms Hedderman said the coalition had taken steps to ensure the building was safe and well run, with security provided by a professional firm. She rejected that Apollo House was unsuitable for use as accommodation for the homeless.

The facility was dry and did not allow in drugs or alcohol and each occupant had their own room, she said.

Mr Ogle said the campaign aims to end homelessness in Ireland. The situation is deteriorating and the occupation is “a direct, necessary, and humane response to the homeless crisis”.

Mr Hansard said the campaign has the support of stars including Jim Sheridan, Hozier, Kodaline, Saoirse Ronan, John Connors, Christy Moore, Mundy, Damien Dempsey, Lisa Hannigan, Rubberbandits, Liam Ó Maonlai, Peadar Ó Riada, Frances Black, Maverick Sabre, and Philly McMahon.

Ross Fanning, for the receivers, said the application was not about putting people on the street at Christmas or any other time. They had “no choice” but to take proceedings over the occupation.

His clients had been in contact with Dublin City Council and Dublin Regional Housing Executive and were satisfied there was capacity at other facilities operating as emergency accommodation for the homeless.

The receivers, he said, are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless but the occupation of the 10-storey office building was illegal and a form of “political protest”.

Mr Fanning said that, due to the occupation, the building, 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 possession.

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