Government shamed as Apollo House recaptures spirits of 1916

Apollo House. Image Credit: Irish Examiner

The leaders of the Apollo House occupation have invoked the spirit of 1916 as they continue to defy the wishes of the Government.

It is ironic, if unsurprising, that those holding the highest offices of power have spent the past year glorifying and celebrating the rebels of the Easter Rising, only to condemn Irish citizens taking radical action against societal injustice.

Taking over someone else’s property and turning it into a homeless shelter is certainly not a conservative course of action. The legality of the action is extremely questionable.

It is also undeniably brave and has thus far benefitted some of society’s most vulnerable people. People too often invisible in broad daylight are now the focus of an entire nation.

Obviously this is not going to solve the housing crisis and homelessness in one fell swoop. Obviously the occupation cannot last forever and will likely be ended before New Year’s Day.

Yet try telling the thirty plus people currently residing in Apollo House that this action was not worthwhile as it cannot fix the wider issue. Try telling them that the action that has led to them having a roof over their head for Christmas is legally wrong.

Sometimes doing a little can mean a lot. While one person cannot put the world to rights they can still make a positive impact.

A group of famous people including Glen Hansard, Jim Sheridan and members of Kodaline are among the volunteers. It is a sad state of affairs when celebrities are achieving more than the elected officials of Ireland.

Plans to demolish Apollo House have been greenlit by Dublin City Council. It is proposed to be replaced by offices, shops and restaurants.

Receivers of the building have applied to the High Court seeking the removal of the homeless dwellers. It remains to be seen whether or not a judge will order their eviction.

Such is the sovereign right of the receivers. They cross no legal lines by appealing for homeless people to be thrown back on the street, only moral ones.

Fine Gael promised to eradicate homelessness in Ireland by 2021 in their election manifesto. This goal was to be reached primarily through providing new social housing.

Yet homelessness rose by 71 per cent between 2011 and 2016 under the stewardship of a Fine Gael led Government. It is no wonder people felt the need to provide a different kind of social housing.

This occupation of Apollo House will almost certainly end unpleasantly. It is almost a certainty that soon more than thirty people will be back on the streets and the building will be demolished.

Hopefully when that day comes others will be willing to take up the cause. There are numerous empty buildings all over the city and even one of their owners opening up the doors would have an incomparable positive impact.

A nation holds out hope that when the end does come, it is much more peaceful than that of the GPO’s occupation a hundred years ago.

Brion Hoban

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