Judge: Apollo House is a matter for government, not the courts

The High Court yesterday dismissed an application by the occupiers of Apollo House in Dublin City Centre to remain for an extra week.

Judge: Apollo House is a matter for government, not the courts

Dismissing the application, which was brought over the suitability of alternative accommodation on offer to homeless people in Apollo House, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said the court “could not get involved in a dispute over the standard of alternative accommodation”.

The judge said while he sympathised with the plight of the homeless, the court had already found the occupants had no right or entitlement to be on the premises.

Any issue about the quality of accommodation for homeless people was “a matter for government” and “not one for the courts”, the judge said.

The building, located on Dublin’s Tara St and Townsend St, was taken over by activists under the Home Sweet Home coalition and offered as accommodation to the homeless.

Mr Justice Gilligan had previously given the occupants, many of whom are homeless, until noon yesterday to vacate the property.

Shortly before the deadline was due to expire, Ross Maguire, for the occupants, asked the court for a seven-day extension.

He said while his clients had tried to comply with the order to vacate, issues had arisen over the suitability of alternative accommodation for the residents.

While efforts were being made to find accommodation with Dublin City Council, more time was needed so that suitable accommodation could be found for the 25 people left in the building.

Mr Maguire said one of the problems was that assurances, given by Housing Minister Simon Coveney about the immediate provision of suitable alternative accommodation given to the Home Sweet Home coalition, had not been delivered.

Mr Maguire represents four activists, including musician Glen Hansard and trade unionist Brendan Ogle, along with Aisling Hedderman and Carrie Hennessy, who are all members of the Irish Housing Network, which is part of the coalition.

The application for an extension was opposed by Nama-appointed receivers who own the building. Rossa Fanning, for the receivers, said the court should not entertain the application for a further stay because of a dispute over the quality of alternative accommodation.

The case was about the property rights of the lawful owners, and the court had already found that the occupiers were trespassers.

The receivers, who counsel said are sensitive to the plight of the homeless, had been in contact with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and the Peter McVerry Trust, and was satisfied there are places available for all those in Apollo House.

Mr Fanning said the court, which had already granted an order to vacate Apollo House, could not get involved in what was “a political issue outside the proceedings”.

Mr Justice Gilligan, who said he “admired” Home Sweet Home’s campaign to help the homeless, said the court had been clear in its judgment last month that the receivers were entitled to possession of the building.

“Ample time” and “a more than generous stay” had been given to those in occupation to vacate a building they have no right to be in.

The court said it did not want to give the impression that it would take “a benevolent attitude” in cases where buildings or public owned buildings are occupied illegally. That would be an intolerable situation in a democratic society, he said.

The case relates to private property rights, he said. The judge agreed the court could not get involved in a debate about the suitability of the quality of accommodation that was on offer.

The judge also said it was wrong to criticise Mr Coveney as he was not a party to the proceedings.

Following the judge’s decision to dismiss the application for an extension, Mr Fanning asked if an assurance could be given that the building would be vacated before the case returns to the High Court today. Mr Maguire said he could not give such an assurance.

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