Belfast Telegraph

Office block receivers take court action to move homeless campaigners

The receivers of an office block occupied by homeless campaigners say they have taken court action as a last resort to clear the building.

While hundreds of people joined musicians including Hozier, Glen Hansard and Kodaline for street performances to mark the occupation of Apollo House in central Dublin, Mazars warned that the accommodation was illegal and a fire risk.

The company also claimed Dublin City Council is providing another 210 beds for the homeless in three facilities across the capital this week, which it said could be used by those sheltering in the building.

Mazars also accused the campaigners behind the occupation, Home Sweet Home, of repeatedly ignoring requests for meetings to resolve the impasse.

The former civil service office block on Poolbeg Street was occupied late last week by the group, whose high-profile supporters include actor Saoirse Ronan, director Jim Sheridan and musicians Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Christy Dignam and Liam O Maonlai and others.

Home Sweet Home hope to have enough beds, running water, kitchen, toilet and shower facilities and heat and light to put up about 60 people.

But they will now face a High Court battle to continue accommodating rough sleepers in the office block, which has been empty since 2015.

Apollo House was owned by Shelbourne Developments. That company had receivers Tom O'Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars appointed after their loans on the property were transferred to Nama.

In a statement, Mr O'Brien said there is no insurance on the building in the event of a fire - which he said "poses an immediate and significant risk to the occupants and to neighbouring property and occupiers".

"As the receivers to Apollo House, we cannot responsibly allow this situation to remain," he said.

"Our overriding concern is for the health and safety of those who are homeless currently staying in Apollo House."

Home Sweet Home have insisted they are open to meetings with the receivers, but Mazars claimed that they got no response to their attempts to set up talks.

Mr O'Brien also said t he priority is the health and safety of the homeless people seeking shelter there.

"While we endorse the importance of highlighting the need for providing shelter to the homeless and the most vulnerable in society, the provision of such sheltered accommodation must be done in an organised, structured and sustainable manner. That is not possible in Apollo House," he said.

In the midst of the occupation, Mazars secured planning permission from Dublin City Council to demolish Apollo House and build a new office block up to 52m high.

Poolbeg Street was closed for some time as musicians backing the occupation put on impromptu performances in front of hundreds of supporters.

Dublin City Council later said its homeless services opened three new emergency hostels this month in three locations - a DePaul Trust centre on Little Britain Street for 75 people; a centre for 70 people run by the Peter McVerry Trust on Ellis Quay and 20 beds in the Civil Defence facility on Wolfe Tone Quay.

A fourth hostel, run by Dublin Simon Community/Salvation Army at Carman's Hall off Frances Street in the Liberties, offering accommodation for 65 people is expected to open on Thursday after it was delayed following a dispute with local residents.

The council said the developments offer a total of 230 beds.

"All this will ensure there is sufficient emergency accommodation capacity to meet the needs of persons experiencing homelessness in Dublin," a spokesman said.

A head count of rough sleepers in Dublin recorded 142 people on the streets in November, but that does not include the numbers bedding down in the night cafes.

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