Owners regain possession of Dublin building occupied by housing activists

Group had been using as homeless accommodation a derelict site which is due to be converted into 500 apartments

The owners of a disused Dublin building, that had been illegally occupied and used by a group calling itself the Revolutionary Housing League as homeless accommodation, have regained possession of the property.

Four men were brought before the High Court a vacation on Monday afternoon following their arrest by the Garda after they were found on the premises that morning at Parkgate House in Dublin 8.

The men’s presence on the site was in breach of an injunction granted by the court earlier this month in favour of the property’s owners and a firm that has been engaged to convert the site into 500 apartments and other amenities.

While three of the four, Sean Doyle, Stephen Maher and Stephen Sheridan had refused to give any undertaking to comply with the court’s order Mr Justice Mark Heslin declined to commit any of them to Mountjoy Prison.


A fourth man, Mr Robert Duff gave a sworn undertaking to comply with the order.

The judge said he noted that possession of the building has been regained by the owners and therefore no purpose would be served if the court was to send anyone to prison until they purged their contempt.

The judge made his ruling after Stephen Byrne BL for the owners said his client did not want to see any of the parties jailed for contempt.

Their primary aim was to secure the building, and that had been achieved he said.

The judge then adjourned the proceedings generally and gave the parties liberty to come back to the court should the need arise.

Following the court’s ruling the four men and a group of supporters walked free from the Four Courts.

Mr Doyle, who the court heard was the orchestrator of the occupation, told the judge that he could not in “good conscience” agree to comply with the order.

Mr Doyle said that the State was failed people by allowing housing to become “a commodity.”

He likened the current situation to other scandals such as the mother and baby homes, and the Magdalene laundries.

He said the Revolutionary Housing League had taken action because it was becoming acceptable for people “to die on the streets”.

This attitude of the State was to say that “it can’t do anything about it”. This, he said, was not acceptable and radical action was needed.

He was also critical of the building’s owners, whom he said had been bailed out for millions by the Irish tax payer.

In reply, Mr Justice Heslin acknowledged that Mr Doyle, a former local election candidate for the republican socialist party Eirigí, had genuine and deeply held convictions about the homeless situation.

However, what the court was being asked to deal with was compliance with a court order, adding that he has a judge has no role in what are political matters.

He said that nobody was above the law and court orders must be complied with. He said that there would be total chaos if parties refused to abide by court orders.

He said that courts often order that damages be awarded to person who were innocent victims and to people who have faced discrimination in the workplace.

He asked where equality laws would be if an employer refused to abide by court orders concerning the rights of groups, including those with disabilities, on the grounds that it was not in the overall economic interest.

Mr Stephen Maher, who described himself as the son of a woman who had been in a mother and baby home, also said he would not comply with the order.

He said he faced being made homeless again and invited all those present in court to “try sleeping on the street to see how you liked it.”

The proceedings were interrupted on occasions by people, including by a woman who said she could not understand why she had not been arrested and the four men had, as she too had been on the premises.

Order was restored after Mr Justice Heslin directed that two people be removed from the courtroom.

The owners of the building financial fund Davy Platform ICAV, acting on behalf of its sub-fund the Phoenix Sub-fund, and Ruirside Developments, which is to develop the site into 519 rental units and other amenities had secured injunction requiring the building to be vacated.

They claimed that the property had been illegally taken over by members of The Revolutionary Housing League, which had been using it to provide accommodation for the homeless.

The plaintiffs subsequently returned to court and obtained orders for the attachment and committal of people it claimed had refused to comply with the terms of the injunction.

The plaintiffs had claimed that the occupants had organised several events, including concerts, at the building.

Insurance cover for the building has been withdrawn by the insurer, and the occupation had also delayed plans to redevelop the site.

The property was formerly operated by a fabric wholesalers Hickey and Company Ltd which vacated the site two years ago.

It was claimed it had been illegally occupied since late August when banners were seen hanging over the side of the property that adjoins the river Liffey and that the defendants had “barricaded themselves into the property”.

The occupants, who had renamed the building Ionad Sean Heuston, had indicated that they had no intention of leaving the property.