What would happen if Fine Gael had a change of heart? What if, having been visited by three ghosts the night before, Michael Noonan decided to address the misery brought on by the largest housing crisis in this nation’s history? It’s an interesting question, but of course it’ll never be answered. Still, thinking about it forces us to consider other questions. It leads us to a view of modern capitalism and international power relations which, if more unsettling than Scrooge Fine Gael, is a more solid understanding on which to build our offensive.
Yesterday hundreds of people turned out to support the imaginative action which is known to all as Apollo house. Apollo House is the single point of light that emerged from an otherwise dismal year, a centennial year of significance, which gave us so little to be proud of. Homelessness, in spite of being a significant symptom of all that is wrong in our society, is both ignored and tolerated. Fortunately the sight of the homeless masses did not get in the way of the centenary celebrations of what a great little republic we have grown up to be.
The actions of the Irish Housing Network and the alliance of supporters which has become known as Home Sweet Home, has taken over an ugly brutalist building and former dole office on Tara Street, and gave homeless people hope of a fresh start. What it has also done is shone a light on the inhumane bureaucratic approach of this to dealing with people who live on the streets. Getting people who have no bed for the night, to phone a free phone number in order to secure one for a single night, only to be thrown back out into the dark pre-dawn streets to do it all again the next day. Apollo House is the golden lamp that emerges from 2016 – and that’s why it has touched the people of Ireland, and been so massively supported. It is an example of what this state should do to support the dispossessed, and would have been a far more fitting tribute than having parades or concerts.
Hundreds of people responded to the High Court demanding the eviction of Apollo House by linking arms to form a protective ring around it. The judge refused the residents an extra week to find accommodation despite the housing minister failing to deliver what had been promised.
It emerged overnight that housing minister Simon Coveney has failed to deliver on the terms he agreed in order to get Home Sweet Home to vacate Apollo House. Protests are taking place outside Apollo house and across the country in response to this betrayal.
Like many other TDs Coveney is a landlord, we know he earns at least 2600 a month from landlordism - it could be a lot more, TDs are only required to declare that there are landlords if they earn more than that figure, they are not required to say how much more. For landlords homelessness plays an essential role in keeping tenants in a state of insecurity and fear, it makes us feel we have no other choice but to pay rent increases.
Ireland is in the depths of a severe homelessness crisis, with 7,000 people without a home. With the government refusing to act, some activists in Dublin did. Apollo House was occupied by Home Sweet Home Eire on the 15th December, to intervene in the housing crisis and to save lives.
There are around 190,000 vacant buildings in Ireland, that's 27 houses for every homeless person.
A high court judge yesterday granted an injunction that directs the Home Sweet Home occupiers of Apollo House to vacate the building by noon on January 11th. This means that the occupiers will remain in the building until after Christmas which is some good news but it still means that the State is quite willing to forcibly eject people from safe accommodation back out onto freezing streets or into unsafe, sub standard accommodation.
This video was shot on the morning of the Apollo House injunction hearing at the High Court, 21st December. As well as footage from outside the courts on our way there we had earlier visited the sites of other occupied buildings evicted in the last 20 months. We discovered all of them were still vacant and in most cases no visible work at all had been done on them.
About an hour ago the Apollo house occupation received a finally crafted piece of legalistic bullshit designed to divide homelessness activists from the professional services on 'Health & Safety' grounds. Health & safety has become the go to excuse for pushing people onto the streets, when the Halston street (ex) prison was occupied over the summer we say the same 'concern' this time over the fact that the pigeon shit found in that building was a health and concern safety. As we observed then there is plenty of pigeon street on the cold, wet streets of Dublin but now its winter and those streets are very much colder.
RTE Drivetime engaged in some shameful clickbait trolling on Twitter last night to try and get a few more listeners. While they have congratulated posh schools for engaging in token sleep outs they decided to directly attack the occupation of Apollo house and its bringing into use as an emergency shelter for homeless people.
And boy did it fall on its face. Normally far far more people will like a Tweet than reply to it. In this case though 201 people have posted angry replies and only 19 liked it. A far stronger message though had already been sent out when the occupiers Home Sweet Home Eire page attracted over 27,000 followers in 6 days and over 1500 people have actually volunteered to help keep the shelter open. Likewise so many donations of materials were received that within a couple of days out had to be announced that there was no room for more.