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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 10 December, 2018
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'There are definitely stories that would fit onto the big screen': Jim Sheridan reflects on Apollo House

The film director is proud of what the Apollo House occupation achieved.

Glen Sing Song Glen Hansard singing atop Apollo House Source: TV3

IN DECEMBER, MEMBERS of the Home Sweet Home campaign – a broad coalition of housing activists, artists and trade union members – took over Apollo House in Dublin and repurposed it as accommodation for the homeless.

The campaign garnered huge public support, brought government ministers to the table and has been hugely critical of the situation facing homeless people in Ireland.

A documentary – Inside Apollo House – will air on TV3 this evening, and TheJournal.ie had a chat with film director Jim Sheridan about the initiative, what it meant and what it achieved for homelessness in this country.

“I got involved when I was approached by Dean Scurry and Damien Dempsey,” Sheridan said. “I was the old guy who’d front it up,” he joked.

The director – of films such as My Left Foot and In America – said that while he was aware that there was a homelessness crisis in Ireland, he wasn’t aware of the extent of it or where it came from before he entered Apollo House.

Jim Sheridan Interview Jim Sheridan Source: TV3

“People needed to be made aware of homelessness,” he said, “but not just homelessness. There’s an awful lot that needs to be done in health, in banking, in the legal profession. We need to build back trust from the ground up in this country.”

The initiative wasn’t just charitable, it was an intervention, according to the director.

Sheridan said that the group wasn’t so much directly taking on the establishment, as just trying to do the right thing.

We’re not oppositional. We were a loving group trying to give people back their dignity, and belief in the institutions that they had lost faith in. You have that power to change things, and that’s what we tried to do.

As for what Sheridan actually got up to while in Apollo House, he focused on documenting all the measures in place to ensure that nobody got hurt in the building.

Once you start a party in your house, you’re responsible for everyone in there.

In terms of what Apollo House has actually achieved now that it’s all over, Sheridan believes that they’ve made a difference in terms of the concessions they received – increase in emergency beds, and a commitment to families being taken away from hotel accomodation – but the real way to fix the homelessness crisis is not through initiatives such as this.

Raising awareness of the problem is crucial, but it is up to government to provide the necessary social housing and policies at the top to make sure that the benefits are felt by everybody.

Apollo 2 Source: TV3

“It’s definitely changed people’s attitudes,” Sheridan said. “We created a debate, and a debate that needed to happen.”

And from a professional perspective, is the story of Apollo House something that Sheridan feels would translate well into a feature film?

There are definitely stories in there that would fit onto the big screen. There are some amazing stories in there that could be told.

Inside Apollo House airs on TV3 at 10pm tonight.

Read: Everyone was equal, we left our egos at the door: Why I volunteered at Apollo House

Read: ‘This is only the start’ – The occupation has ended, but what’s next for Home Sweet Home?

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Sean Murray

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