Irish Republican News · January 13, 2017
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Apollo House vacated as campaign declares success
Apollo House vacated as campaign declares success

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A group of homeless people vacated a state-owned office building in Dublin on Thursday, ending a month-long squat that brought international attention to the housing crisis in Ireland.

The group of activists, celebrities and rough sleepers, who took over the empty site on December 15, had vowed to turn Apollo House into long-term accommodation for the city’s homeless. The building had lain empty in the hands of NAMA, the state bank which handles the property assets of developers bankrupted by the property crash of 2008.

On Wednesday, the group said they would defy a High Court deadline to vacate the building, but on Thursday agreed to move out in concern for the safety of those they were sheltering.

“It is regrettable that in recent days the state has failed to take this opportunity to publicly support this effort to address a national emergency,” the group said in a statement posted online, saying the court order had made the building “unsafe and therefore untenable”.

The group pointed to a number of achievements and policy changes as a result of their action, not least the fact that no homeless had lost their lives over the Christmas/New Year period, as well as the new and better quality accommodation which had become available.

“Home Sweet Home will ensure that all of the matters agreed with Minister Coveney will be delivered,” they said.

There were emotional scenes as the homeless left the building on Thursday amid spontaneous singing and chanting: “Homes for the homeless.”

“We did it,” said one activist. “We did what we set out to do.”

Brendan Ogle of the Home Sweet Home group confirmed the residents who had left the building had been provided with housing or temporary hotel accommodation paid for by the campaign funds.

“Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a situation yesterday where because of a court order, the support services needed by the residents of Apollo House were not available in this building,” he said.

“This campaign has only just begun. It’s a very emotional day for everybody that’s been in here for the last few weeks,” Mr Ogle said.

The occupation ended as data showed the numbers of rough sleepers continues to rise in Ireland, along with the number of families moving into temporary accommodation.

Amid sub-zero temperatures, the number of homeless on the streets of Dublin and other Irish cities continues to break records. An official snapshot of Dublin’s homeless in November showed an increase of 35 percent on the year before.

And there are continuing concerns over the numbers who continue to be made homeless as hundreds of repossession cases continue to come before the courts. Many of their properties have ended up vacant in the hands of multinational ‘vulture funds’ as a result of controversial deals involving NAMA and the Dublin government.

But Fr Peter McVerry of the Peter McVerry Trust homeless charity praised the breakthrough ‘Home Sweet Home’ campaign. “I think they’ve done the job,” he said. “They have highlighted the issue of homelessness, they have got public support behind the issue of homelessness.”

© 2017 Irish Republican News