LONDON, Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A group of
Irish homeless people on Wednesday defied a High Court order to
vacate an unused office building in central Dublin in a standoff
that has focused attention on the country's growing homelessness
Up to 40 homeless people and activists were told to leave
Apollo House, a commercial building on one of Dublin's
best-known streets, by midday on Wednesday. The group, which
took over the building in December, aimed to turn it into
long-term accommodation for the homeless.
"We want no more people sleeping or dying on our streets,"
activist Rosie Leonard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from
Leonard said the group would not leave the office block
until acceptable accommodation was found for its occupants, with
national figures showing a growing problem of rough sleeping on
the streets and ever more homeless families seeking shelter.
An official snapshot of Dublin's homeless in November
showed an increase of 35 percent on the year before.
HIGH COURT HEARING
Leonard, a volunteer with campaign group the Irish Housing
Network, said the government must find safe long-term housing
for the homeless and low earners and introduce measures to
protect vulnerable tenants.
A hearing is scheduled for the High Court on Thursday when a
decision is likely on whether activists will face civil or
criminal charges for the occupation.
The 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.
NAMA was established in 2009 in a bid to bolster local banks
exposed by thousands of risky loans issued before the collapse
of the Irish property market.
It has now generated potential profits of more than 2
billion euros ($2.10 billion), drawing the ire of many Irish
citizens who feel they have been left behind by the economic
The occupation has drawn high-profile support from well
known Irish musicians, including Hozier, Glen Hansard and the
band Kodaline, who performed outside Apollo House last month. It
has also highlighted divisions among housing campaigners as some
established charities did not back the occupation action.
The housing minister was not available for comment but last
month acknowledged concern about the shortage of housing and
promised extra help.
His statement said there has been a 40 percent increase in
homeless funding from 70 million euros ($73.38 million) in 2016
to 98 million euros($102.73 million) in 2017.
($1 = 0.9539 euros)
(Reporting by Sally Hayden @sallyhayd, Editing by Paola Totaro
and Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights,
climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)