HUNDREDS ATTENDED AT APOLLO HOUSE in bitter cold from late morning today to indicate their support for the homeless people and housing activists in occupation of the building. At the same time, a court refused to extend the
deadline by which it has ordered the occupiers to leave.
While they were there, representatives were attending court seeking an extension on the deadline given by a court order to leave the building by noon today.
Housing activist Rosie Leonard told the crowd that the alternative accommodation some Apollo House homeless people had been offered was totally unsuitable and that some were houses for people with addiction issues and that there were even bloodstains on the walls. They had asked for an extension as the State had not provided alternative accommodation but this had been refused.
In response, people cried “Shame!” and “We shall not be moved!”
People were asked to link arms symbolically around the building, which many did and the line extended from Townsend Street/ Tara St. and the full length of Poolbeg Street.
PEOPLE QUEUE TO SIGN UP TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT
Shortly afterwards, announcements were made asking people willing to support the continued occupation to give their names to organisers and queues of people formed giving their names and phone numbers to put on a list.
Speakers addressed the crowd at intervals and musicians, singers and percussionists also performed for the crowd. A group including a Vulture Capitalist, Banker and Woman & Child being evicted also performed for the crowd.
Chants included: What do we want? Homes not hostels!
Also: Is a doorway a bed?
No! Is a mattress a bed?
Since December 15th, the Home Sweet Home coalition of activists and homeless people has been occupying this building which state agency NAMA had repossessed from a property developer with unrepayable debts. The group is calling for NAMA to use the properties it has taken control of to house the homeless.
Lynam’s Hotel in O’Connell Street is a building you could easily pass without realising what its business was. The hotel takes in mostly tourists on short-stay bookings but, as the homelessness crisis totally exceeds Dublin City Council’s minute stock and specific funded provision, DCC has also used it to place homeless families within it as with many other hotels around the city and county (and even further out).
When the owners of the hotel found themselves over-extended on loans, NAMA moved to take over the building; naturally the State agency would not wish to be seen evicting homeless families. Five families with a total of ten children were being placed there by Dublin City Council. The Hotel’s management at first wanted to cooperate with NAMA and force out the families but these, supported by Irish Housing Network, refused to leave as they had no suitable alternative accommodation (see their letter in the Appendix). One by one, the families won short extensions on their stay from the management. Incidentally, eight workers’ jobs are also at stake.
During the week, the IHN set up a campaign table outside the hotel, staffed by volunteers on a rota and some additional helpers; they began to collect signatures to a petition demanding Dublin City Council take over the hotel and for NAMA not to evict the families. They distributed leaflets (the IHN also have an on-line petition on their FB page) and by mid-week, had collected 1,000 signatures to the petition.
FAMILIES AND SUPPORTERS CONFRONT NAMA AND RECEIVERS
On Wednesday 27th, the families and supporters went to NAMA’s Head Office in Treasury Buildings, Grand Canal Street, D2 and from outside, asked to see the head of the state agency. Treasury Buildings management locked their building and called the police, who arrive in one squad car, then another, and then more of them on foot.
After talking to the police, NAMA offered to see one of the families only, accompanied by a supporter. The families discussed this and rejected it but offered the concession of two families plus supporter. The senior Garda officer seemed to be trying to persuade the families’ representative to accept the NAMA offer but they stood firm. After rejecting that offer, NAMA PR spokesperson Martin Whelan came out to speak to the families and their supporters from the steps of the building. One of the campaigners speculated that this was the first occasion ever for NAMA to explain their actions to the public.
Whelan’s position was, in essence, that NAMA had no choice but to put the properties it received on the market and to sell them on. He rejected the accusation of one of the campaigners that NAMA “takes over properties and sells them at knock-down prices to vulture capitalists,” maintaining that all properties are sold at their market value.
With regard to the demand that the building be put under management as a homeless hostel by Dublin City Council, Whelan would say only that they had received no offer from the Council. That would be a decision for the Receiver, he said, in a statement that many saw as an exercise in passing the parcel.
To those who quoted him some lines from NAMA’s founding charter that its purpose was, in part “… to address the compelling need ….. to contribute to the social and economic development of the State …”, Whelan had nothing to say apart from repeating what he had said previously.
The families and campaigners presented Whelan with 1,000 signatures on petitions and indicated they would return with more and began to leave, the police also leaving as they did so.
However, the families and their supporters were not finished yet and headed off for the
Receivers’ office which, at Marine House, Clanwilliam Place, took some finding. Eventually located overlooking the canal in a very quiet section of the city, they entered and ascended to the 5th floor, to the business address of Crowe Howarth, a member company of the Swiss firm Crow Howarth International. The families and supporters asked to see the person in charge, Aiden Murphy, a partner in the Crow Howarth, who was allegedly outside the building and due back in ten minutes but who appeared from inside after keeping them waiting nearly an hour. Then he wanted to meet them in the lobby, which they refused and insisted on the respect of a meeting in a private office space, which Murphy eventually granted.
According to reports of that meeting, Murphy was civil to the families and assured them he would not be asking for their eviction prior to the court hearing on receivership of Lynam’s Hotel.
He was due to meet the families the next day but, apparently worried about meeting demonstrators, arranged a meeting with them in the Gresham Hotel instead (no doubt chargeable to the public). His reticence for meeting possible demonstrators was somewhat different to his previous arrival as reported by sources. with a takeover workforce, bullying staff, changing locks and issuing orders.
THE COURT CASE
In advance of the court hearing, hotel management seemed to be moving to place the families as a buffer between themselves and the Receiver and were reported to have asked the families for a letter stating that the accommodation offered by DCC was unsuitable. Judge Gilligan asked Dublin City Council to appear in court to answer whether they had alternative accommodation available.
On Friday 29th, DCC duly presented themselves at the High Court and assured Judge Gilligan that they had indeed alternative accommodation ready for the families. Judge Gilligan did not ask the DCC spokesperson to detail the type of accommodation they were offering nor its location and Crow Howarth made no move to do so either. The families themselves were not permitted to have a letter detailing their conditions and the type of “alternative accommodation” available (see Appendix) read out in court.
The outcome pf the case was that Lynam’s Hotel was wound up, ordered to cease trading beyond August 1st and the building is to be sold (if it is not, as rumoured, already sold) on behalf of the State to some unknown capitalist. The families will presumably be placed somewhere in the kind of conditions about which their letter complains, affecting not only the parents but the children now and into the future, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
And the housing crisis continues without any State agency or Dublin City Council making serious efforts to address it; according to the Irish Housing Network there are over 8,000 families homeless within the state and the total is growing daily. This is in the centenary year of the 1916 Rising when that inspirational document was printed in Liberty Hall, signed in Henry Street (around the corner from Lynam’s Hotel by seven who would be shot later by firing squad) and read out and posted on Easter Monday outside the GPO in the same street as the Hotel, declaring that “The Republic guarantees equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally …..”
We the Lynams families would like to thank you for your consideration of our situation in this High Court decision. We are choosing to remain anonymous due to fear of being targeted as we are under threat to take offers that are not suitable or find ourselves with no accommodation what so ever.
We appreciate that you realise that we are extremely vulnerable at this time and are being used as pawns in the political maneuvers of the Hotel management, DCC, the Receivers and NAMA.
As a group we would like to highlight the situation in Emergency Accommodation we are currently finding ourselves in.
We are HOMELESS, yes we are lucky to have a roof over our heads but we are without a fixed abode. We are under the control of the whims of Hotel Management and the DCC.
The accommodation we can usually find ourselves in is one double sized room for one family, two rooms if you have a larger family not necessarily in the same building. Imagine if you will having to live your whole life within the confines of this room where there is:
No drinking water. No fridges to store milk for young babies. No cooking facilities. No laundry facilities to wash your own or your children’s clothes. No area for the children to play, do homework or socialise with others.
We have been offered Alternative Accommodation which is below the standard that we currently experience at Lynams and is still not suitable for our families needs. In fact there is no minimum standard for Emergency Accommodation.
Families that enter Emergency Accommodation initially start off their journey in shock with a loss of home, structure, security. Children sit in their school uniforms waiting for the hotel restaurant to open in order to grab a quick breakfast before they start their long journey to the only anchor they know which is the school they were enrolled in, before they became homeless. Families cling to this anchor, in order to enable their children to have some degree of normalcy in their lives.
Those children who do not have a home and proof of residence do not have any chance of enrolling in school, getting a doctor‘s appointment, being referred to services or getting counseling.
Children spend their days trying to be quiet around adults that are stressed trying to find new accommodation for that night. Forbidden to associate with other children as per rules in certain establishments. They are hungry, as they wait for their parents to source food, often eating whatever food is left over from breakfast until they share one takeaway meal between the family. There is no money is left by the end of the week as it has been spent on transport. These children are disorientated, with some families ending up in hotels in Bray, Aughrim & Brittas Bay trying to get to school in north Dublin. These children lose any hope of being in a normal home, they cling to already anxious parents.
The average families moves every 5 days unless they are lucky to get a hotel/guesthouse that takes on DCC customers as permanent until placed, the length of time that takes can be upwards of 2 years. There is one family that was in Lynams for 7 months, and were informed by DCC with 4 days notice to move, they have been in hotels in several different counties in the space of 3 weeks since they moved.
We ask you to consider that this is our home, we are powerless to fight the combined forces of DCC, NAMA and the Receivers and the pressure they are putting on us. On July 22nd Management in Lynams continued to accommodate us when DCC failed us.
We ask you to consider that we are not just names on a list, we are real people, we have real lives, we have jobs, our children are being directly affected by the decision being made here today.
Even though we have no hope of a good outcome for our families we can only hope that you find it in your heart to consider all these issues of how the system for homeless families has failed us all and will continue to fail unless properly addressed.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Foreign tourists and Irish-based visitors looked on with curious interest at a gathering at the foot of the East Pier, Howth on Sunday 24th – the group contained a number in military-type uniform, some were carrying flags, each one of a different design and a number of people in ordinary civilian clothes were carrying floral wreaths.
Most onlookers at that point would not have known that those gathered there had a threefold purpose:
to commemorate the landing of Mauser rifles for the Irish Volunteers
to commemorate the massacre of civilians by enraged soldiers later that same day on Bachelors Walk and to
launch the Asgard 1916 Society.
The men and women in uniform formed up with the flags as a colour party and led the procession the full length of the pier to its end. There the procession came to a halt in front of a plaque on the wall commemorating the landing of 900 Mauser M1871 single-shot rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition in 1914 by a crew skippered by Erskine Childers with his wife Molly and friend Mary Spring Rice. The arms were taken ashore and whisked away in an operation planned by Bulmer Hobson of the IRB and carried out by the Irish Volunteers and Na Fianna Éireann.
The Dublin Metropolitan Police and British Army were mobilised by Dublin Castle authorities to seize the guns (unlike at the previous much larger operation by the Loyalist UVF at Larne) but only managed to get a few. As the disgruntled Scottish Borderers marched back into town, they were jeered by Dublin crowds and some cabbage stalks were thrown at them. On Bachelors Walk, very near the Ha’penny Bridge, an officer brought them to a halt and they faced the crowd with guns pointed, then opened fire. Three men and a woman were killed and 38 wounded, including the father of singer Luke Kelly of the Dubliners ballad group (also called Luke). One of the victims died of bayonet wounds.
Margaret McKearney, who has had three brothers killed in the Six Counties during the 30-years war, stepped forward to address the crowd as tourists and visitors took photos or watched and listened. After giving a brief account of the Howth landing and of the massacre on the Dublin quays, also of the smaller landing at Kilcoole, McKearney called forward Pól Ó Scanaill of the 1916 Societies to read the 1916 Proclamation of Independence. After he had finished, McKearney called for the young bearers of two floral wreaths to make their presentations:
Ellen O’Neill, with a wreath in memory of those killed and injured by the British soldiers at Bachelors’ Walk;
Roibeard Drummond, whose uncle Michael Moore was a crew member of the Nugget, landing rifles at Kilcoole, laying a wreath for the Asgard 1916 Society to commemorate the landing of the rifles and those who carried them in battle in 1916.
Last of the wreath-layers was Denise Ní Chanain on behalf of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.
MOORE STREET SPEECH
Niamh McDonald gave a short speech on the current situation in the struggle to save the revolutionary quarter of Moore Street. She informed her audience that NAMA had sold the debt of the Irish speculator company Chartered Land (Joe O’Reilly) to Hammerson, a British-based vulture capitalist company, who are continuing with the plan to build a huge shopping centre over the whole historic quarter. Meanwhile, the Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys, is appealing the High Court judgement that the whole quarter is a national monument. McDonald asked people to keep an eye on the campaign’s
Facebook page for updates and for calls to support actions.
McKearney then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing Me Old Howth Gun, pointing out that guns landed at Howth had been the first to fire on the Lancers in O’Connell Street on Easter Monday 1916. Breatnach introduced the song as having been written apparently in 1921, that is a year before the outbreak of the Civil War, by James Doherty, who also used the pseudonym Seamas Mac Gallogly.
MAIN SPEAKER — JOHN CRAWLEY FROM THE MARITA ANN
The next speaker to be introduced by McKearney was John Crawley who was arrested on board the Marita Ann trawler, intercepted off the Kerry coast by the Irish Naval Service on September 29, 1984, when seven tonnes of arms were seized. The US heavy machine guns recovered on the Marita Ann had special mountings allowing them to be used as anti-aircraft weapons. Another of those detained on board – and later jailed for 10 years – was Martin Ferris who went on to become a Kerry TD for Sinn Fein, while John Crawley has taken a line of opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.
John Crawley gave the main speech at Howth, in which he traced the history of the struggle for the Irish Republic from the Volunteers onwards, pointing out that many who fought the British in 1916 had different aspirations for the country, which explained why they parted ways in 1921. Crawley stated that the British have always been able to pick out those whose primary intention was to survive the struggle from those whose intention was if necessary to give their lives for the objective of the Irish Republic.
Crawley pointed out that some people had led a section of the Republican movement in accepting the right of a foreign country to decide the future of a part of our country; they had joined in the colonial administration and had accepted the colonial police force.
After the applause for the speech died down, McKearney thanked those who had participated and asked Diarmuid Breatnach again to step forward to sing the national anthem. Breatnach sang it in Irish, first verse and chorus (and noticeably sang “Sinne Laochra Fáil” instead of “Sinne Fianna Fáil”). Participants joined in with the chorus and then all made their way along the pier towards a local pub where refreshments had been made available by the new 1916 Society.
Five families with a combined total of ten children are resisting eviction from a building on Dublin’s O’Connell Street where they have been placed in emergency accommodation by Dublin City Council. The building in question, Lynam’s Hotel, has been taken over from its owner by NAMA and the families have been told that they must leave so that it can be turned into temporary accommodation for tourists. Already there are many tourists renting the rest of the 43 suites.
The families however have decided that they are not going to leave and Irish Housing Network has organised support for them. Volunteers were outside on Wednesday as one of the parents had been told that day to leave with her child, which she was refusing to do. She was then given an extension until Friday but on Thursday, another family were told to move and they too were holding out with supporters nearby. Towards the end of the day that family too was given an extension.
Some of the families in question attended the Dáil late on Thursday afternoon, where Thomas Pringle, Independent TD, asked a question regarding the situation of a junior Government Minister for Housing. Clare Daly TD reportedly had been trying to get a question asked since Monday. Presumably this question has as part of its purpose to draw media attention to the issue and to put pressure on the landlord not to evict the families.
NAMA was set up allegedly to recoup money from speculators who had overextended their credit and could not clear their debts. The idea presented to the public was that, as the Government had bailed out with public money the banks who had lent out to speculators sums far in excess of what was commercially justifiable, the State would take the properties and sell them, putting the money gained back into the public purse. What has in fact been happening is that NAMA has been selling these properties off to vulture speculators, who are snapping them up at prices well below their market value. One of these vulture speculators is Hammerson, a British-based property speculator company, which is rumoured to be looking to buy the hotel. Hammerson also has bought Chartered Land’s (Joe Reilly) property empire and with it, planning permission to demolish all but four buildings of the Moore Street quarter and to build a huge shopping centre over the historic battleground and national monument.
Many acknowledge that there is a housing crisis currently in Ireland and in particular in Dublin. The Irish State that was created in 1922 has been since its inception in support of capitalists, including speculators, but against workers and lower-middle class people. Nevertheless in the past local authorities did build some social housing to rent but these days, Dublin City Council does not want the role of managing housing and has sold off most of its stock and not built any new houses for decades.
One of the people who fought against the State we have inherited was killed by Free State soldiers in O’Connell Street and a small plaque commemorates him on the corner of the building there now. Cathal Brugha had been wounded 25 times in the Easter Rising and beat the odds to survive, though he walked with a limp thereafter. In 1919 he organised the IRA from the Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army who were willing to join. In 1921 he voted against the Treaty and in 1922 led a force of IRA against the new Free State in order to ease the pressure on the Republican forces who were being shelled at the Four Courts. He was shot down in the street this month, 94 years ago, across the street from Lynam’s Hotel.
On Friday 22nd, the IHN called a public protest outside the hotel. Although at short notice and called for 1pm, therefore during office hours, up to 30 people supported the protest. The event attracted considerable media and public attention.
Irish Housing Network is set to continue to support the families in resisting eviction and volunteers may wish to get in touch with the organisation to help maintain a support rota for the families https://www.facebook.com/irishhousingnetwork/.