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'Irish people are suckers for celebrity endorsements': Dublin council chief on Apollo House

Owen Keegan has criticised the occupation.

Updated at 2pm

11/11/2013. IMPAC Literary Awards Sasko Lazarov / Sasko Lazarov / /

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Dublin City Council Owen Keegan has hit out at the occupation of Apollo House by homelessness activists, describing it as an inappropriate response to keeping rough sleepers off the streets in the capital.

The derelict office block in Dublin, now staffed by a team of volunteers with Home Sweet Home, has been used to house dozens of people presenting as homeless.

Those occupying the building have until 11 January to leave, the High Court ruled last week.

The occupation has received massive support from the public, with the likes of Glen Hansard and Hozier throwing their weight behind the Home Sweet Home organisation. / YouTube

However, Keegan takes a dim view of this.

“I think Irish people are suckers for celebrity endorsements,” he told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, when asked why it has caught the public’s imagination.

It’s interesting that in the two weeks before Apollo House, three purpose-built refurbished hostels were opened and they didn’t get a fraction of the publicity.

Citing health and safety regulations, he raised concern over the quality of the accommodation being provided in Apollo House.

I don’t believe there’s any immediate risk, but we would be rightly condemned if we put people in a building that didn’t meet health and safety standards. I’m kinda surprised that a different attitude is being taken by the public and that media because of the nature of this particular venue.

Dublin Fire Brigade and gardaí were reportedly brought in to inspect the building, and had declared it safe at the start of the occupation.

Keegan again highlighted that a number of beds in emergency accommodation are available, stressing that they are of good quality and that standards have improved in recent years.

23/12/2016. Homeless Story. Apollo House in Dublin Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

“Last night I think there was close to 100 beds available in hostels that were professionally managed and that met all standards,” Keegan continued, “so I just find it difficult to reconcile why anybody would feel a need to accommodate homeless people in sub-standard accommodation when there are more than enough beds available.”

He was also critical of how, unlike dormitory-style accommodation elsewhere in the city, Apollo House is a dry hostel, meaning anyone with alcohol or drug dependency issues must look elsewhere for accommodation. / YouTube was given access to Apollo House last night.

A tour of the premises showed a wide-range of range of facilities, ranging from single-bed rooms with TVs, on-site paramedics, cooking facilities, with files being kept on each resident staying in the building.

Occupiers are not planning on vacating the building by the January deadline, with plans to install showers and educational units.

Home Sweet Home this morning cast doubt on a claim made by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Friday that there were 54 free beds in hostels around Dublin.

In a statement, the group questioned if any of these included mats on the ground, as this is what some presenting at Merchant’s Quay Nite Cafe are offered.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive rejected this, saying that “the number that the Minister tweeted about are beds spaces that were unoccupied across all emergency accommodation providers”.

Read: Group behind Apollo House occupation raises €160,000 from public donations >

‘This is home for people now’: A look inside Apollo House >

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