A senior counsel lawyer acting on behalf of some of the people sleeping at the former Department of Social Protection building made the call for action yesterday, despite Department of Finance officials noting that any Apollo House issues remain a matter for the receiver, Mazars.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme 24 hours after the High Court said up to 40 homeless people illegally occupying Apollo House in Dublin’s city centre can remain at the site until noon on January 11, Ross Maguire, a senior counsel acting on behalf of four of the individuals, said that while the reprieve is welcome, it does not go far enough.
Calling for immediate intervention by the Government, Mr Maguire said Mr Noonan should use powers under the Nama Act to “instruct” the State property group to make buildings available to fight the ongoing homelessness crisis.
In a bid to force through the high-profile move, he said the Home Sweet Home campaign, fronted by musicians Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey, and which also includes Right2Water member Brendan Ogle, would be writing to Mr Noonan by last night to call for the move to take place.
“The request will be made to the minister to instruct Nama to contribute direct assistance,” said Mr Maguire.
“This has to be more than providing a space on the floor.”
Mr Maguire added that the Nama act specifically allows for Mr Noonan to issue such a demand.
Asked about previous Nama suggestions that local councils, and not the State property group, have delayed buildings being used as homeless shelters in the past, Mr Maguire said that this was because “there’s never been a direction by the minister”.
“When you actually look at what they are providing, it’s not good enough,” he said. “When you look at what they plan to replace [Apollo House] with, it’s a big glass tower with Dolce & Gabbana shops. Beautiful, but that’s strange when you juxtapose it with people with nowhere to go. It has to be more than a mat on the floor.”
While the Department of Finance had yet to receive any correspondence from the Home Sweet Home campaign by last night, it is understood the department believes any Apollo House issues should be directed to the receiver, Mazars, which is looking after the case.
Meanwhile, the deputy chief executive of Dublin City Council has said that while he “admires” the Home Sweet Home campaign, the reality is that Apollo House is “not acceptable accommodation” for people in need.
Despite campaigners stressing that public liability insurance will not run out on the building until January 16 — meaning there will be no financial risk posed by accidents or fires — senior council official Brendan Kenny said “doubts” remain about the safety of people at the site.
He said the council and Government are “very, very close to breaking the back” of the homelessness crisis, and stressed that he remains “concerned if people are left there [Apollo House] over Christmas”.