Apollo House ‘hugely inspiring’, says Joseph O’Connor

Irish people ‘don’t have to be cowed little subservient muppets’ writes author

‘I thank the Home Sweet Home movement for its implied reminder that we don’t always have to be cowed little subservient muppets who bend the knee to power.’ Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

‘I thank the Home Sweet Home movement for its implied reminder that we don’t always have to be cowed little subservient muppets who bend the knee to power.’ Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Author and professor of creative writing at the University of Limerick Joseph O’Connor has spoken out against the critics of the Home Sweet Home (HSH) movement, describing its occupation of Apollo House in Dublin as “hugely inspiring”.

In a letter published in Tuesday’s Irish Times, O’Connor commended the decision by the coalition of activists and homeless people, including high-profile names such as Glen Hansard and Jim Sheridan, to take over the vacant city centre office block before Christmas to house homeless people.

He thanks the movement for the reminder that Irish people “don’t always have to be cowed little subservient muppets who bend the knee to power”.

The movement has been occupying the office building since last month but has been ordered by the High Court to vacate the building by noon on January 11th.

“Some of the leaders of the occupation are well-known celebrities, runs the latest criticism,” writes O’Connor. “On that basis, Live Aid, which saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and the international anti-apartheid movement, which helped defeat that wicked and iniquitous injustice, were also bad ideas.

“In the screwed-up logic of the voices of power in our Lilliput, Glen Hansard is now the enemy.”

“Why should we leave these buildings empty and bat-infested until the vulture funds get around to flipping them for a profit?” asks the writer. “By this method, we can continue to be a nice little little obedient slum with a casino attached. Swift and Myles na gCopaleen, where are you now?”

“Why can’t musicians have a say in how our country is run?” he asks. “What can artists possibly know about the sufferings of the dispossessed? The fact that you play guitar is to debar you from a say in how your country is run? Who could possibly argue with such a reasoned position?

“A degree in economics is, of course, the first requisite of Irish citizenship now, and the possession of padded kneecaps, for a more gentle genuflection.”

The author goes on to request that the Government refrain from lecturing the Irish people on the importance of 1916 - “an illegal activity which featured quite a number of poets, writers and artists in significant positions of leadership and led to some uncomfortable outcomes - if it does not value the ideas of its cultural professionals.

“We’ve all just had to endure a year of official commemoration, which many of us thought meant something other than noise, waffle, platitude and posturing.

“I guess those awkward lines about cherishing the children of the nation equally and the people of Ireland being entitled to the ownership of Ireland are one thing when the subject of a photogenic parade in O’Connell Street, at Easter 2016, and another when it cuts to the chase.”

Apollo House matters, says the author who opened the letter by highlighting the pride he felt when asked by his children about the occupation of the vacant Nama-managed building on Poolbeg Street.

“I thank the Home Sweet Home movement for its implied reminder that we don’t always have to be cowed little subservient muppets who bend the knee to power.”