Not The Housing Campaign We Hoped For

Rowan Clarke with the last in a four part series of articles on the Apollo House occupation.


In recent months Brendan Ogle, has been rumoured to have intentions to create a new political party.

Ogle has, from what I can see, picked up on a niche within the voting public, a large and substantial number of the populace fed up with political parties even some of the those regarded as more Left orientated and anti-establishment including Sinn Fein, Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit.

These parties are regarded, among your ordinary salt of the earth folk, as hollow and only interested in matters come election time.  From within this bloc a type of independent has emerged that many particularly working class communities regard as being of the adage ‘one of our own.’  They are regarded as ordinary Joe and Mary Soaps who say as they feel and avoid any sort of complex political tendencies, mostly content with just a change in government and putting it up to the establishment.

Ogle has reached out to this element's grievance and includes them on their level and this will be the backbone of his fledgling new party should he proceed with the idea.

He has also stated recently that he intends to soon launch his own attempt at a news media network.

It must be said that his involvement with Apollo and that he may soon have plans to launch,  both a new political party and some sort of news site is awfully convenient. It can’t be denied that HomeSweetHome will be a massive effective platform from which to launch both.

If this is the case, it is very insincere and only serves to trivialise a most emotive issue that deserves a more sensitive handling. 

Late in the occupation promises made had fallen through, promises made by Housing Minister Simon Coveney in which the residents housed in Apollo would be given suitable accommodation.  The residents were not at all happy with the digs on offer up to that point.

It was relayed that HomeSweetHome had secured from the minister the provision of €4 million to facilitate the building of hostels in the Inner City.  But it later transpired that this plan was in place well before the HSH meeting took place, solidifying the idea that the softly softly approach of HSH was not enough to jolt Coveney. A tough customer, no doubt about it.

I’m sure many are wondering why they are back in the drug addled, dirty and chaotic hostels, when in just a month HomeSweetHomecollected online nearly €200,000 when this could easily provide a deposit andfirst month’s rent for all residents to secure permanent residences in rented apartments or houses so that they can get back on their feet.

The Gardaí arrived on the scene early the next day ready to arrest anyone present in the premises.  My resident contact and other residents decided it was not worth the prospect of arrest and facing a conviction through the courts to continue staying within the building, the occupation was over.

HSH volunteers have since brought them to a hotel at the expense of the HSH fund and have stated that they intend to look after the former Apollo residents' interests in the interim.  I really hope they get the accommodation they deserve so they can get back on their feet and improve their lives.

But the fact remains - and I find it particularly peculiar - that Unite, in which Ogle is an organiser, and undoubtedly the main body with the most influence in this HSH conglomerate, could not house these vulnerable remaining residents in nearby Unite owned property on Merrion Square, a large Georgian building bought for a rumoured €2-€4 million several years previous. Unite had applied for planning permission on the 6th of December in a bid to convert the property into apartments.

It has since been verified that UNITE will Not be utilising these properties for Social Housing and have done their utmost not to engage in any schemes that would require Unite to participate in even a minimum level of social housing.

A bit rich ofUnite instigating a campaign against homelessness and addressing the housing crisis caused by property developers, yet Unite themselves seem on the path to become just that.

While ‘Home Sweet Home’ is being given applause and much back clapping from the wider public, there is much rumbling on social media from a sizable section of the more ideological inclined and militant activist. They are bringing forward many credible claims of being subjected to exclusion by sections within HomeSweetHome, for example, the Irish Housing Network. And there is much criticism over the decision to leave which seemed to be preplanned despite their insistence that they were staying put.

While I’m grateful to see 40 people got to keep warm, fed and bedded over a very cold wet late December/early January, with kudos to all those who ensured these folks were looked after, this just isn’t the housing campaign many of us have been waiting and hoping for. And I’m sure many are going to continue to wait until it emerges.