Irish campaigners resist eviction in occupation to end homelessness

Activists hold building in hope of pushing the Irish government to address homeless crisis

ANTI-HOMELESS CAMPAIGNERS face eviction over their occupation of Apollo House, a property owned by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) which holds the bad loans of companies affected by the property crash of 2008.

Members of the Home Sweet Home (HSH) group have taken over the building for a number of weeks demanding that Nama end homelessness across the city and wider Ireland.

The building is being used to accommodate up to 40 homeless people who have been told by the Irish High Court to leave the building by noon today (11 January).

HSH has called on the Irish government to use their executive powers under the Nama act, which nationalised the bad debts of properties affected by the property crash, to use empty buildings controlled by Nama to end homelessness.

“Apollo House has become a symbol of people power, a space of dignity and justice and we stand with them in solidarity.” HSH

A spokesperson for HSH said: “Despite the great efforts of the HSH collective and despite assurances given by the housing minister Simon Coveney at recent negotiations, it has not been possible to secure adequate alternative accommodation for the catering for the short and long terms needs of the residents of Apollo House.

“We support the occupation of Apollo House. We believe the actions of the homeless, activists and volunteers in occupying and running Apollo House are valuable and necessary to provide homes for homeless people while also forcing the government to address the issue of homelessness and the broader housing emergency.

“Apollo House has become a symbol of people power, a space of dignity and justice and we stand with them in solidarity.”

Activists who represent HSH state that because of their actions there was a marked reduction in the exposure of homeless people in Dublin to the bitter weather conditions during the Christmas period up to the New Year. However, the group have also ridiculed what they termed as “paltry and unsatisfactory offers” made to the occupiers and other homeless individuals by housing and state authorities. They cite examples of houses with substandard health and safety conditions with some of the alternative homes having vomit on floors and holes in walls. 

The campaign is symbolic, along with the water rates crisis, of the growing discontent with all major political parties in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) who critics say are failing to provide services or guard against austerity.

According to its own figures, Nama holds around 7,000 properties amassed over the last few years, which HSH argue are suitable for social housing. However Nama has laboured under allegations of corruption. These included an infamous set of payments into Isle of Man accounts which forced the resignation of the former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Peter Robinson in January of last year.

“Using the National Asset Residential Property Services Ltd, we have spent up to €200m to ensure that we can provide social housing” Nama

A Nama spokesperson told CommonSpace: “Using the National Asset Residential Property Services Ltd, we have spent up to €200m to ensure that we can provide social housing to numerous housing agencies. 

“We can confirm that a further €100m has been allocated completing the servicing of any properties transferred to housing agencies from Nama debtors”

The High Court in Ireland will hear an appeal on whether the occupiers’ stay can be extended. However, it is expected that the police will be permitted to move them off the property. 

Picture courtesy of Gerry Mulvenna

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