Trade unionist issues defamation action against RTÉ

Broadcaster reported Unite sought social housing exemption certificate for property

A trade unionist  has issued defamation proceedings against RTÉ over a report that the trade union Unite sought an exemption from providing social housing in a property it owned

A trade unionist has issued defamation proceedings against RTÉ over a report that the trade union Unite sought an exemption from providing social housing in a property it owned

 

Trade unionist Brendan Ogle has issued defamation proceedings against RTÉ over a report that his trade union sought an exemption from providing social housing in a property it owned in Dublin city centre.

The broadcaster reported in January that the trade union Unite had sought a social housing exemption certificate from Dublin City Council when it was carrying out work on its former head office on Merrion Street in Dublin.

The application was made by property managers acting on behalf of Unite who were seeking planning permission to convert the protected Georgian building, which had been in office use, back to residential use.

At the time the report was aired, Unite was involved in the Home Sweet Home occupation of Apollo House, an initiative aimed at highlighting the homeless crisis. That campaign was co-founded by Mr Ogle, Unite’s education officer.

Suitable

After the RTÉ broadcast on January 16th, Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said the union had offered the building to a number of organisations for social housing three years ago. However, the groups did not consider the building to be suitable. He said one of the organisations, Focus Ireland, came to the conclusion that the Merrion Square building was “completely unsuitable” for their needs as it stood. Focus Ireland confirmed the offer.

RTÉ stood over its report and its coverage of the occupation of Apollo House, saying it said it was satisfied had been fair and accurate.

On December 7th, 2016, property managers acting on behalf of Unite sought planning permission from the council to convert the protected Georgian building on Merrion Square, which had been in office use, back to a single residence.

The application also proposed the construction to the rear of the house of a five-storey block featuring one two-bedroom and three three-bedroom apartments.

Planning laws

In tandem with the application, the union sought and was granted a “social housing exemption certificate”. Under planning laws, developments of fewer than 10 homes are exempt from the requirement to provide social housing, but developers must formally apply to the council for the exemption.

Mr Kelly said the union planned to sell the building, and that planning permission for apartments was sought in order to “maximise the value of the building and get the best value for the members’ money.”

Paul Tweed of Johnsons Solicitors confirmed that Mr Ogle had issued High Court proceedings for defamation on Friday. A spokeswoman for RTÉ said it did not comment on legal matters.