Apollo House residents ignore court order to leave; Coveney encourages 'continued engagement'

Update 4pm: In a statement, a spokesman for Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the minister would encourage Home Sweet Home to continue engaging with the Peter McVerry Trust and Dublin City Council to help transfer people from Apollo House to "alternative suitable accommodation with appropriate supports".

"The minister's priority continues to be the provision of safe and suitable accommodation for homeless people," he added.

"The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government will continue to work with the various agencies to pursue this agenda."

Update 1.30pm: Campaigners and residents of Apollo House say they will be staying put, in defiance of a High Court order to vacate this afternoon.

The Home Sweet Home collective said they will not vacate Apollo House until 10 remaining homeless residents are housed in suitable accommodation.

Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Dublin building earlier to demand housing for the homeless.

Freda Hughes, a spokeswoman for Home Sweet Home, said: "We are now defying the court order and the reason we are doing so is because we have a duty of care to the residents here and we said we would not leave until they get suitable accommodation."

A number of residents left in three people carriers shortly before the midday deadline to take up accommodation organised by the Peter McVerry Trust.

Ms Hughes said the remaining 10 residents have particular short-term and long-term needs and the accommodation being offered to them is unsuitable.

There are a number of couples among the residents who wish to be rehoused together.

Campaigners have also insisted that homeless people with addiction issues should not be accommodated in "wet hostels" where residents can drink alcohol or in other accommodation alongside drug users.

Dozens of Home Sweet Home activists who are helping to run the makeshift emergency accommodation within Apollo House also remain within the office block despite the court order.

Campaigners are planning a rally at Apollo at 8pm this evening.

Ms Hughes said they are awaiting further instructions from their legal team on what they will do if and when authorities attempt to remove the remaining residents and activists from the building.

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said it has re-accommodated 76 people since the occupation of Apollo House before Christmas.

"We have extended an offer to the Home Sweet Home to continue to liaise with them in an ongoing basis and make available our supports," he added.

'Fighting to stay'

Peter, who left Apollo House only to come back after being offered accommodation he says was unsuitable, said he would fight to stay: "The terms of vacating the occupation that we took were that everyone that needs a bed, gets a bed," he said.

"People are going around, giving out saying you have to drop your expectations, it is not going to be going from one Apollo house to another, I understand that, but there is a bare minimum."

Earlier: An application for a one-week extension of the order to vacate Apollo House has been refused by the High Court.

The occupiers of the building have to legally leave by midday today, after a High Court ruling before Christmas.

They applied for a stay in the court to extend that, but this has now been rejected.

As part of a deal agreed between the occupiers and the Government, at least two new homeless shelters will be set up in Dublin City Centre to address the homelessness crisis.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the provision of these new facilities will cost in excess of €4m.

They will include units suitable for single persons and couples, and will promote independent living.

The occupants of Apollo House claim the alternative accommodation offered to them is "unsafe and unsuitable".

Four days before Christmas, the occupants of the derelict Apollo House in Dublin city centre were given until noon today to leave – a stay described by Mr. Justice Paul Gilligan as “unusually long”.

Ross Maguire, who is acting for some of the Home Sweet Home campaigners, said they intended to comply but he accused Minister Coveney of not finding suitable alternatives as promised.

He said some occupants had left Apollo House but returned because they found their alternative accommodation to be “entirely unsuitable”.

Rossa Fanning, who is representing the Nama-appointed receivers, said the order should stand because the court does not have the jurisdiction to decide on suitability.

He described the case as a “very simple law case involving an illegal trespass”.

He said the order should stand and described ongoing negotiations regarding suitability of alternative accommodation as "neither here nor there".

Mr Justice Gilligan agreed. He said it was not appropriate for the court to get involved in this dispute, describing it as a "matter for Government".

He ultimately refused the application for an extension. The remaining occupants have now been told to leave Apollo House immediately.


 

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