Apollo House activists receive thousands of volunteer applications

The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has called for residents in the property to be allowed to remain in the building

Apollo House activists receive thousands of volunteer applications

Apollo House. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

A government minister has called for the activists and homeless people occupying a NAMA owned office block in Dublin to be allowed to stay until other arrangements can be found.

Apollo House on Tara Street in Dublin has been occupied by activists since last Thursday - with 35 people sheltering in the property on Sunday night.

The group - backed by a number of high profile Irish artists and musicians - have renamed the property "Home Sweet Home" and have said they are receiving “phenomenal” support from the public.

Large donations of food, clothing and furniture continue to arrive at the building and the group’s spokesperson, Rosi Leonard said around 2,000 volunteers have now made contact looking to help out.

This afternoon, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone said she is concerned about the legality of the occupation but called for the group to be allowed to remain, "if that is what provides appropriate shelter for those people during Christmas."

Minister Zappone said she shares the view of homeless campaigner, Fr Peter McVerry who has applauded the demonstrators but warned that the occupation is “not the solution” to the homeless crisis.

Home Sweet Home spokesperson, Rosi Leonard said the building's 35 residents have “settled in really well” adding that the support from the public has been “just fantastic.”

Rosi Leonard of the Irish Housing Network outside Apollo House in Dublin. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

“We are just continuing to process all the donations that have come through and take on new volunteers. The public support is absolutely phenomenal,” she told Newstalk.

Ms Leonard said the property is currently at capacity - however the group hopes to extend the facilities and add more beds over the coming days.

“We are linking up with other services and soup kitchens to try and make sure that as many people have a safe bed for the night - but currently we are at capacity here,” she said.

Dublin City Council Motion

Meanwhile, an emergency motion is being submitted to Dublin City Council today calling for the official recognition of Apollo House as a “bona fide homeless hostel” in Dublin.

Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) Councillor Michael O’Brien will submit the motion commending the activists who have occupied the property and calling on Dublin City Council to officially recognise the property.

Councillor O’Brien is also calling on NAMA to withdraw their injunction ordering the activists to vacate the premises.

“It is indefensible to have people removed who have just settled down,” he said adding that the injunction was a “politically stupid move” on the part of NAMA and the receivers appointed to the property, Mazars Ireland. 

Councillor O’Brien said the action was a “legitimate and justified act of civil disobedience” and deplored what he called the “sniffy attitude” displayed by the Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney towards the occupation.

“The well planned no nonsense approach of the activists stands in marked contrast to the snail's pace approach of the government who are totally wrapped up in the property rights and the rights of developers and landlords to turn a profit from a basic human need,” he said.

Front entrance of Apollo House in Tara Street, Dublin. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The motion to be put before the council also calls for authorities to recognise “time served” for residents of Apollo House in terms of their position on the priority homeless housing list.

Ms Leonard said 'Home Sweet Home' would welcome the motion adding that the group, "needs all the support we can get.”

“We did this as a very serious effort to try and save lives and take people off the streets so anything that will help us in the safe and secure running of the place is welcome,” she said.

“This is one of many vacant buildings in the city and as we know there are over 193,000 homes vacant in the country.

“We wanted to show that things like this are possible - but we also wanted to show that if the government are not going to take action then the people are going to take action.”

She said the group have not had any further contact from the authorities since receiving the order to vacate.

A spokesperson for Mazars - the receivers appointed to the property by NAMA - said the “illegal occupation of the building - which is not suitable for living accommodation - presents serious insurance and health and safety issues which we cannot take responsibility for.”

“As Receivers we are legally obliged to protect and secure the property,” she said. “The current occupiers are trespassing on private property and we are asking them to leave with immediate effect. 

Speaking in the Dáil on Friday afternoon, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he can understand the group's frustration but warned the occupation was "not the way to go."

Minister Coveney said that a major homeless initiative is already working for the city and he praised Dublin City Council for creating 210 safe new beds for the homeless in just one month.

Irish actor makes impassioned speech in Dublin

In an emotionally charged speech in support of the occupation at Dublin’s Axis Theatre over the weekend, director and actor Terry McMahon said the group would continue, “as long as 250,000 properties lie empty and our government continues to do nothing.”

“We will fight to ensure that nobody ... nobody else dies in a doorway,” he said. “Our freedom was fought for 100 years ago and today we ask ourselves what are we prepared to do for the people who need us most.”

He said Ireland has failed the leaders of 1916 “miserably, horribly, shamefully.”

“This is our Ireland and it is a different war now; insidious, malignant, cancerous. Idealists are liars, heroes are cowards, bullets are banks and bombs are big business," he said. "They don’t call this war a rising or a revolution, they call it austerity."

“This is our Ireland where corporations can operate tax free with impunity, where natural resources can be purchased for a song, where our national leaders lie on the world stage about a recovery."

Mr McMahon said that during the last eight years of austerity more people have died by suicide in Ireland than died during the thirty-year-long troubles in Northern Ireland.

“This is our Ireland, not the government’s, not the banks, not the corporations, not the scum in three piece suits who know the price of everything and the value of nothing," he said.

“We ask ourselves, if not us, who? If not now, when? And finally we ask ourselves, when exactly did we allow a tiny coterie of controlling class scum to make us forget just what a f**king sublime nation we are.”

“This is our Ireland.”

The Department of Housing has been contacted for reaction to Councillor O’Brien’s motion to have Apollo House recognised as an official homeless shelter.