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Apollo House occupiers refuse to vacate building despite court order

Homelessness campaigners occupying an office block in central Dublin have vowed to defy a court order for them to leave.

The Home Sweet Home collective said they will not vacate Apollo House until 10 remaining homeless residents are housed in suitable accommodation.

Dublin's High Court has refused to extend a deadline of noon on Wednesday for the activists and residents to leave the building, which is controlled by the State toxic assets agency Nama.

Freda Hughes, a spokeswoman for Home Sweet Home, said: "We are now defying the court order and the reason we are doing so is because we have a duty of care to the residents here and we said we would not leave until they get suitable accommodation."

A number of residents left in three people carriers shortly before the midday deadline to take up accommodation organised by the Peter McVerry Trust.

Ms Hughes said the remaining 10 residents have particular short-term and long-term needs and the accommodation being offered to them is unsuitable.

There are a number of couples among the residents who wish to be rehoused together.

Campaigners have also insisted that homeless people with addiction issues should not be accommodated in "wet hostels" where residents can drink alcohol or in other accommodation alongside drug users.

Dozens of Home Sweet Home activists who are helping to run the makeshift emergency accommodation within Apollo House also remain within the office block despite the court order.

A deal had been announced on Monday to end the occupation.

However, Home Sweet Home accused Housing Minister Simon Coveney of engaging in a "political stunt" and not offering the accommodation that was promised during talks.

They said a number of residents had returned to Apollo House after being offered unsuitable lodgings.

The agreement included the promise of 4 million euro (£3.47 million) to be spent on two new facilities for the homeless in the capital.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at Apollo House and linked arms around it after the midday deadline for occupiers to vacate it had passed.

Campaigners are planning a rally on Wednesday evening.

Ms Hughes said they are awaiting further instructions from their legal team on what they will do if and when authorities attempt to remove the remaining residents and activists from the building.

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said it has re-accommodated 76 people since the occupation of Apollo House before Christmas.

"We have extended an offer to the Home Sweet Home to continue to liaise with them in an ongoing basis and make available our supports," he added.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Coveney said the minister would encourage Home Sweet Home to continue engaging with the Peter McVerry Trust and Dublin City Council to help transfer people from Apollo House to "alternative suitable accommodation with appropriate supports".

"The minister's priority continues to be the provision of safe and suitable accommodation for homeless people," he added.

"The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government will continue to work with the various agencies to pursue this agenda."

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