Updated at 6.15pm
A HIGH COURT judge has refused to grant an extension on an order for Apollo House occupiers to vacate the building.
The original stay on the court order expired at 12 noon today, meaning any occupiers of Apollo House are now in breach of a court order.
However, the activists say that they will not leave the building. A large number of people linked arms around the outside of Apollo House, as organisers told the crowd of protesters who had gathered to coincide with the court decision: “This is not over.”
“They’re treating us like dogs. They’re treating us like fools … We’re not taking it any more. This housing crisis is going to end, and it’s going to end in a way that is fair and dignified for everyone, that will guarantee everyone a safe home,” said Home Sweet Home volunteer Rosi Leonard.
“We are going to defy this court order. We are staying here”.
Speaking outside the court after the decision, Apollo House spokesperson Aisling Hedderman said that the residents will not be leaving until they have somewhere better to go.
“Currently the needs of the residents have not been met,” she said. “The residents have nowhere to go. They will not be leaving until they find alternative accommodation that suits them.”
She said Housing Minister Simon Coveney had “broken his promises to the homeless people” and to everyone who had supported the campaign by not providing enough beds in the system for every homeless person.
In a statement released this evening, Home Sweet Home spokesperson Freda Mullen-Hughes said the campaign “has always been about respect and dignity and empowering people to help themselves”.
“It is also about changing the parameters of the conversation around the housing crisis and raising standards and expectations. We are in the middle of the biggest housing crisis this state has ever seen and, where the state won’t intervene, its people will and have done in this mass civil society movement to tackle homelessness.”
The court’s decision
In court, Justice Paul Gilligan reiterated in his decision that the matter of suitability of accommodation was not to be dealt with by the court.
The judge told the court that the occupiers had no “right, title or interest” in the property and that they were trespassing.
He said that he understood that residents may wish to stay in Apollo House but that he had “no function other than to apply the law”.
The judge had said this morning that he had already given a “very generous stay” on the order for Apollo House occupiers to leave the building.
Ross Maguire SC – representing the occupiers – had requested today in court that an application to extend the 12 noon deadline be considered by the court.
Maguire argued that the suitability of the alternative accommodation for residents was not sufficient.
Rossa Fanning SC – representing the receivers of Apollo House – objected to the application for a stay.
He argued that negotiations between the occupiers and Government officials around suitability of alternative accommodation was not a matter for the court.
Fanning argued that his clients had “no statutory function” and that the occupation represented an “illegal trespass”.
The occupiers were last month ordered to leave the Nama-controlled former office building in Dublin’s south inner city by midday today.
The building was occupied by homelessness activists under the banner of the Home Sweet Home campaign on 15 December.
It has since been used to house up to 40 homeless people per night.
Home Sweet Home announced on Monday that it had reached an agreement with Housing Minister Simon Coveney over the transition of the remaining residents there to alternative suitable accommodation.
It was believed that this transition would be completed in days, with the building being completely vacated by tomorrow.
The transition of the residents was being managed with Dublin City Council and the Peter McVerry Trust charity.
Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, was present in the courtroom today.
In a statement released following the ruling, Doyle said the sole objective the Trust had in engaging with Home Sweet Home was to “meet the needs of the residents there”.
Doyle said the charity had assessed 85 people since teh occupation began. By today’s High Court deadline the PMV Trust said it had re-accommodated 76 people.
“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,” Doyle said.
Responding to the court decision today, Housing Minister Coveney said he encouraged the representatives of Home Sweet Home to continue to work with the PMV Trust.
Home Sweet Home released a statement last night saying that eight homeless people had returned to Apollo House from hostel accommodation, saying that it was unsuitable for their needs.
The people stated that the accommodation was dirty, with signs of drug use and in some cases was worse than accommodation they had stayed in before Apollo House.
Speaking earlier on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Peter – one resident who had returned to Apollo House – described blood on the walls of the alternative accommodation.
Peter – who is a recovering drug addict – said drug use was also occurring in the hostel.
Leonard told Morning Ireland that the occupiers had “no choice but to stay” in Apollo House regardless of whether the High Court grants an extension.
“The demands that the residents made were not met,” said Leonard.
We’ve carried out our end of the deal and we have worked tirelessly for a month now to provide safe, suitable accommodation.
It is believed that about 18 people remained in the Nama building overnight last night. That number includes five couples.
Spokesperson for the Home Sweet Home campaign Tommy Gavin last night said that the accommodation was “completely unacceptable”.
“Home Sweet Home will not stand over the health or safety of vulnerable people being compromised,” he said.
The campaign accused Minister Coveney of “undermining his own commitments”.
Both sides have also issued conflicting statements over the provision of two new emergency accommodation facilities that are due to come on stream in the next number of months.
Campaigners claim the new facilities are as a direct result of the Home Sweet Home campaign, while Coveney has said the facilities were in the pipeline before the occupation began.
TheJournal.ie has contacted the Housing Department and the receivers Mazars for comment.
Additional reporting by Christine Bohan and Órla Ryan