City council claims Home Sweet Home occupation "had no bearing" on decision to demolish building

The occupation has received “phenomenal” support from the public - with 35 homeless people taking shelter in the building last night.

City council claims Home Sweet Home occupation "had no bearing" on decision to demolish building

Apollo House in Dublin. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Dublin City Council has denied that planning permission to demolish Apollo House was “rushed through” in response to the occupation of the building by activists providing shelter to the homeless.

The council has given the green light to a €50m plan to redevelop the property alongside the neighbouring Hawkins House.

The activists - who have been occupying the NAMA owned property since last Thursday - have renamed the building ‘Home Sweet Home’ and have announced plans to install more beds and extend the facilities.

Organisers have said the occupation has received “phenomenal” support from the public - with 35 homeless people taking shelter in the building last night.  

The group’s spokesperson, Rosi Leonard said thousands of people have applied for volunteer work in the building with hundreds more applications flowing in every day.

She said donations of food, clothes and furniture have continued to arrive and a local dentist has this morning offered to provide free dental care to the residents.

The proposed redevelopment would introduce a modern new ‘Office Quarter’ in the area, including 50% more office space, a café and retail units.

In June a Dublin City Council local area plan identified the site as an area of significant economic importance to the city.

There are no apartments or accommodation included in the application.

Rosi Leonard, the Irish Housing Network. Image: Sam Boal

Ms Leonard said the planning application lodged to Dublin City Council had been “lying idle for a number of months and strangely was only actually passed the day that the building was opened up to house residents.”

“I think there is possibly something in that indicating that this has been rushed through in response to what is happening here,” she said.

She said the council decision “certainly doesn’t change our plans” and confirmed the group will continue to operate the building as a functioning hostel for “people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.”

She called on the authorities to “consider the needs of the people before private interests at this time.”

“This building has been derelict for six years,” she said. “There has been nothing happening in this building. There has been no one going in and out of it. There has been nobody using it for any kind of good.”

“I wouldn’t accept that this is not a derelict building. I think it fits exactly the criteria. In South Dublin - where we are - there are over 6,000 empty homes and that is just in South Dublin.

“This is an absolute crisis and to suggest that these buildings are somehow derelict for good reason or somehow derelict with the anticipation of something coming is irrelevant I think during the worst homeless crisis that this country has ever seen.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council confirmed the planning application was granted on Friday 16th December and said, “the occupation of this building had no bearing on this decision.”

The NAMA appointed receivers to the property - Mazars Ireland - are behind the planning application for Apollo House while the Hawkins House application was made separately by the Office of Public Works.

In a statement this afternoon, Mazars partner Tom O’Brien said the firm has “tried to engage constructively” with the Apollo House occupiers and “have on a number of occasions sought to meet with them but to date, Home Sweet Home have not made themselves available to meet with us.” 

He said Apollo House is, “completely unsuitable for residential use and lacks the most basic facilities needed by those who are homeless.”

He said the occupation has, “resulted in the loss of fire insurance cover for the building which poses an immediate and significant risk to the occupants and to neighbouring property and occupiers.” 

Dublin City Council has confirmed that they expect 210 new beds to become available this week in three city centre facilities. 

“These facilities are run by homeless agencies who provide not just beds but a full professional support service comprising professional care, medical and counselling staff along with access to public health nurses,” said Mr O’Brien. 

“Dublin City Council has agreed to work with these housing agencies so that all those sheltering in Apollo House can be accommodated in these facilities. 

He said that if “cooperation is not immediately forthcoming” from the Home Sweet Home occupiers, the company will have no option but to seek assistance from the courts.

Home Sweet Home have said they are willing to meet with the authorities and - as of yesterday - had received no communication other than the order to vacate the premises.

 

Ms Leonard said an emotionally charged speech by Irish actor and director, Terry McMahon in support of the occupation over the weekend was “really moving” and said the residents of Apollo House are “really grateful for the support from outside.”

“This building is being run by hundreds of volunteers who are giving up family life, who are giving up work, who are giving up everything to try and do something positive to end this crisis,” she said.

“It has taken everybody involved to make this work - and it is working.”