Home Sweet Home occupation has "seriously embarrassed" the government - Fr Peter McVerry

A group of famous Irish artists have held an impromptu concert on top of the building this afternoon

Home Sweet Home occupation has "seriously embarrassed" the government - Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry in December 2015. 01-Dec-2015. Image: Brian Lawless PA Archive/PA Images

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said the occupation of Apollo House has “seriously embarrassed” the government.

Activists have been occupying the NAMA owned property in Dublin to provide shelter to the homeless since last Thursday.

The activists - backed by a number of high profile Irish artists and musicians - have renamed the property "Home Sweet Home," with 35 people sheltering in the building overnight.

Fr McVerry - who has been helping the homeless and youths in Dublin’s inner city since 1974 - told Newstalk the occupation has embarrassed the government and brought the homelessness issue to the fore.

“What they wanted to do originally was put a roof over people’s head over Christmas and they have succeeded in doing that,” he said. “But they have also generated enormous publicity for the issue of homelessness.”

“They have galvanised the whole population. They have had thousands of offers from people to volunteer.”

Fr McVerry said the government, “obviously cannot condone the occupation but they have to bring forward a reason why it is not the reasonable thing to do - and the government can’t do that.”

“They are putting the government under great pressure to up their game and address this problem of homelessness in a much more urgent manner than what they are doing.”

Glen Hansard joined Irish band, Kodaline and host of other musicians for a rooftop concert on the roof of Apollo house this afternoon.

Hozier and Liam Ó Maonlaí also entertained large crowds on Tara St.

Green Party legislation

The Green Party plans to bring forward legislation to deal with derelict and vacant sites in Ireland when the Dáil resumes in January.

The latest figures show 6,500 people are currently homeless in Ireland with 20 families a week being evicted from their homes.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told Newstalk the occupation of Apollo House is a "symbolic step but it was an important step to show that we should be doing more."

“It is absolutely right and appropriate that the artist community are standing up and saying we need to change our ways so everyone can live in this city,” he said. “It is impossible to live at the moment; you can’t rent here.”

Mr Ryan said there are currently “28,000 un-commenced planning permissions for housing units in the Dublin area and a quarter of a million vacant homes across the country."

“Dublin city has 60 hectares of vacant land, spread over more than 280 sites that could be used for housing,” he said. “In addition, there are growing numbers of derelict buildings boarded up in the city centre.”

The party said plans from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for dealing with vacant properties are “all focused on incentivising developers” and said inaction by the government has “contributed to the housing and homelessness crisis.”

“We don’t need another carrot incentive for developers to boost their profitability - we need a stick to ensure that the ample land out there ready for development is not hoarded for easy profit,” said Mr Ryan.

Mr Ryan accused the government of dragging its heels on a vacant site levy adding that a “watered down version” of the legislation has been delayed until 2019 and “won’t even apply to derelict sites or buildings.”

“It is not right that a small three bedroom family home is subject to property tax, yet prime zoned development land, worth millions, is allowed to appreciate in value, purely for profit, and is not taxed in a similar fashion,” he said.