Homeless Irish vacate building after month-long standoff

 15 Jan 2017 - 22:19

Homeless Irish vacate building after month-long standoff
FILE PHOTO: Supporters form a human chain around Apollo House in Dublin (Photograph courtesy: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times)

By Sally Hayden / Thomson Reuters Foundation

LONDON: A group of Irish homeless people vacated a prime Dublin office building on Thursday, ending a month-long standoff that has focused attention on the country’s housing crisis.

The activists and rough sleepers, who took over the empty site on Dec. 15, had planned to turn Apollo House into long-term accommodation for the city’s homeless.

On Wednesday, the group defied a High Court midday deadline to vacate the building, which sits on one of Dublin’s best-known streets. But on Thursday, they bowed to the court ruling and moved out.

“It is regrettable that in recent days the state has failed to take this opportunity to publicly support this effort to address a national emergency,” the group said in a statement posted online, saying the court order had made the building “unsafe and therefore untenable”.

The activists said they were moving the Apollo House occupants to alternative housing in an undisclosed location, where they would have access to support services.

The occupation began as data showed the numbers of rough sleepers has risen in Ireland, along with the number of families moving into temporary accommodation. An official snapshot of Dublin’s homeless in November showed an increase of 35 percent on the year before.

“We want no more people sleeping or dying on our streets,” activist Rosie Leonard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Dublin.

Leonard, a volunteer with campaign group the Irish Housing Network, said the government must find safe, long-term housing for both the homeless and low earners, and introduce measures to protect vulnerable tenants.

The occupied property formed part of a portfolio of loans which were taken over by the state-owned National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) in the wake of the financial crash that forced Dublin into an 85 billion euro ($89.11 billion) bailout.

($1 = 0.9539 euros)

(Reporting by Sally Hayden @sallyhayd, Editing by Paola Totaro and Lyndsay Griffiths)