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.




I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Into There

Republican community activist Rowan Clarke in the third of a series of pieces shares his thoughts on the Apollo House occupation.

Apollo House reps after meeting Simon Coveney- photo  newstalk

Apollo House reps after meeting Simon Coveney- photo newstalk

Apollo House - It’s kind of a bit like Bob Geldof’s LiveAid with the same sort of atmosphere and attitude attached, choc a bloc with celebs and modern musicians that makes it acceptable and easy to support.

It comes with its own hashtag and T-shirts are aplenty.

Its gofundme appeal has now reached over 200,000 euro.

There is no doubt since HomeSweetHome campaign has relied heavily on celebrity endorsement and as a front to give it lifeblood and we can’t escape the fact it would never have gotten off the ground otherwise.

Talk of Social Housing, scrutiny of the developer class and taking on the landlords wouldn’t go down well as its possible that many of the celebrities, musicians and big names involved a few who themselves are possibly landlords with property portfolios. Some present were certainly tax dodgers, through engaging in overseas schemes to protect their wealth from being taxed in this country (money which ironically could go toward building much needed social housing and facilitating homeless services more adequately) and all ultimately belonging to the lite class which controls this country. This, despite their insistences I’m sure to the contrary.

Several business interests also contributed heavily to the Apollo effort and were instrumental in keeping it afloat and supplied.

It was free advertising which will no doubt will prove profitable but what also must be mentioned is the fact that one key benefactor, ‘Mattress’ Mick - himself a man with a sizeable property portfolio and who is currently in dispute with NAMA over a warehouse of his based in North Dublin.

These dalliances with landlords, property developers and business magnates irked many among the hard Left who were vocally highlighting the glaring hypocrisy of the very progenitors of the housing crisis openly aiding Apollo’s occupation.

This all I’ve no doubt is all Ogle's doing. His sphere of influence would make it possible to involve such useful elements.

We can all agree Apollo has highlighted homelessness and aroused a sense of charity in many to a point they are willing to get out and volunteer. Yet we must explore some of the agendas at play in the scenario: who has what to gain and who will be the big winners when it’s all over and the buzz dies down.

To my knowledge, Brendan Ogle and many of the high-profile individuals involved in this collective have no experience in volunteering in housing activism and have no experience in the complexities of the ‘rough sleeper’, the type of individuals headhunted for entry into Apollo House to stay as residents.

Having worked previously with vulnerable people and through my studies, I have come to see homelessness as a very complex subject, in which the scenario of no access to a permanent residence is just a very small part of the problem. Addiction - mainly to Heroin and Alcohol - mental illness, habitual criminality and a myriad of other factors influence those who end up on the streets.

It was presumptuous from the get go on the part of the organisers of the Apollo occupation that tying Homelessness and Housing together was ever going to be a success, as the two issues are mutually exclusive. And the task of overseeing the care of such individuals is extremely problematic and requiring expert professional care the likes of which an ad hoc political occupation can never possibly offer even with some input from professionals, lending a hand over a few …. it’s a long-term job to meet these people’s specific needs which takes years.

The Irish Housing Network, a very loose collection of assorted housing groups, but arguably with a core junta made up mainly of - some might say without sounding too disparaging - your typical hyper-Liberal finding themselves student types, with also some I would deem ‘celebrity’ activists in the mix to give a bit of extra glam and gloss. They were tasked with being the overseers of the occupation aided by a number of voluntary soup run workers and sympathetic political collectives, who without question were happy to be associated and give a dig out.

It was most unnerving that later on during the occupation we came to see that Brendan Ogle himself, London based actor and mainstream musician Glen Hansard, millionaire movie director Jim Sheridan (who recently sold a palatial mansion in plush Dalkey for 2.3million ), along with granted some reasonably well informed housing activists, would be negotiating on behalf of the homeless residents with Housing Minister Simon Coveney. By proxy they were essentially putting themselves on pedestals to speak on behalf of those in Ireland affected by housing issues.

Maybe it’s just me but I can think of far more well qualified individuals who should have this role.
We can’t escape the stark reality that while I’m sure many of the celebrities and musicians involved have had good intentions, this has no doubt it’s been a gold mine in publicity and attention and no doubt sales will be looking good in the future.

This zaps any sincerity or substance from the campaign and disallows it from ever becoming the revolutionary movement it could have been.

Brendan Ogle will be the big winner, let’s not draw straws about that. But not without scrutiny which I’m sure he’s prepared for.


Pulling The Strings Of The Apollo Occupation

Republican community activist Rowan Clarke in the second of a series of pieces shares his thoughts on the Apollo House occupation.

Brendan Ogle Home Sweet Home Press Conference photo;

Brendan Ogle Home Sweet Home Press Conference photo;

Apollo House happened in a flash, a broad collective of political activists and charity volunteers, had stormed a Nama owned abandoned office block on Poolbeg Street, with the purpose of providing shelter within for the homeless particularly the rough sleepers over the Christmas in a safe secure environment with access to professionals and medics willing to volunteer their services.

An exciting prospect and most importantly the perfect springboard to launch a National Housing campaign, lovely. Then when enquiring through the grapevine who was pulling the strings and the main influencer, two words instantly dashed my hopes - Brendan Ogle - there was a collective sigh of disappointment.

For those who don’t know, Brendan Ogle is a well-known and eccentric Trade Union official from Dundalk Co Louth, with a background representing train drivers and later ESB employees and is currently an ‘organiser’ for the UNITE union, who at one time was paid a salary of 80,000 per annum.

In recent times Ogle, has re-emerged as the guru behind the ‘Right2Water’ movement, creating a broad front of political parties and anti-water tax activists under the one umbrella. Later it became ‘Right2Change’ to coincide with impending elections, with many ‘Right2Change’ independents running in their respective constituencies……it was a disaster, yielding very poor results.

Ogle is blamed by many within the water movement as having split it and pacifying what was ultimately a very militant campaign. He was seen many as having infiltrated the movement and using his considerable media and establishment connections (which admittedly are impressive) to manipulate key players and parties into singing to his tune and allowing him to take full control of the issue.

For some of the large marches that took place in the Capital during the Irish Water furore we can thank Brendan Ogle: for his flair for pageantry, orchestration and professional looking events on display top heavy with celebrities, musicians and prominent politicians hungry for votes.

The only thing missing was substance, something that disappeared as soon as Right2Water became the dominant force in fight against the water meters.

Water meter protests died down and organic organising locally dwindled. Eventually Ogle had made everything about electioneering and some would say building a profile for himself. There is little doubt he enjoys the attention!

Before Ogle's foray into Homelessness, he was touring the country promoting his book with the grandiose title 'From Bended Knee To A New Republic: How The Fight For Water Is Changing Ireland' (all for the low price currently of 16.95, formerly 19.99).

When Ogle is mentioned in conversation, the phrase ‘you either love or hate him’ usually comes up.

For me, I neither love not hate Brendan Ogle. I don’t know the man personally. What I do know is he is not the man to position himself the spokesman of both homeless and housing in Ireland and neither are some of the mainstream musicians, famous faces and ‘celebrity activists’ he has installed at the heart of what they are calling ‘HomeSweetHome’ who are essentially pulling the strings of the Apollo occupation.

While critical of the Apollo I am also mindful to be thankful to some of the individuals involved at grassroots level and who I can say are without agendas, who were nice enough to accommodate some vulnerable individuals I know personally who were in dire need of emergency accommodation which wasn’t forthcoming from their respective county councils, social welfare and even some mainstream charity bodies.

In one instance, I was lucky to manage to get a couple known to me personally into Apollo after nearly two days frantically trying to find a place for them to stay after they were the unfortunate to endure a house fire.

It is this aspect of Apollo I am most appreciative about: the good nature of the volunteers, who no doubt kept 40 people clothed, warm, fed and with beds over Christmas. Nobody can dispute that fact, nor discount the thanks they deserve.

But in terms of the overall political aspirations and message emanating from Apollo House, it’s been rather redundant.

The occupation itself has styled itself more a charity, albeit a militant one, than it has as presenting itself as a serious credible attempt to highlight the Housing Crisis and ideas and means to challenge it head on: an opportunity it has had many times but carefully refrained from doing so.

This is no doubt due to the fact that HomeSweetHome campaign has relied heavily on celebrity endorsement as a front to give its lifeblood. We can’t escape the fact it would never have gotten off the ground otherwise. Talk of Social House, scrutiny of the developer class and taking on the landlords wouldn’t go down well as its possible that many of the celebrities, musicians and big names involved are themselves landlords with property portfolios. Some present, certain tax dodgers and all, ultimately belonging to the elite class which controls this country, despite their insistences I’m sure to the contrary.

Al of this, I’ve no doubt is all Ogle's doing.



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