Occupied Finglas apartments had been bought for social housing

Nama says complex was being repaired by Dublin City Council and protest ‘will delay use’

Homelessness activists have taken over an unoccupied building in Finglas, Co Dublin containing 60 apartments. Video: Conor Gallagher/ Colin Mc Gettrick

 

An attempted takeover of a Nama-controlled apartment building, which has already been earmarked for social housing, ended on Thursday when gardaí escorted activists from the scene.

A group calling themselves the “Premier Love Project” entered the 60-unit building at about 2am on Wednesday morning before stating on Facebook that apartments in the building would be offered to people unable to secure social housing.

Security guards on the premises confronted the activists and gardaí were alerted. The group left peacefully several hours later.

Later in the day, a small group of homeless people gathered at the front door after hearing about the occupation on Facebook. They were unaware the occupation was over and the building was now occupied by Dublin City Council security guards.

A small Garda presence remained outside the building during the afternoon but left when they were satisfied those inside were security guards.

On Thursday evening Nama and Dublin City Council said work had been going on for some time to make it available for use as social housing.

“Ironically before Christmas, Nama reached agreement with Dublin City Council [DCC] on the purchase of the apartments by DCC for use as social housing,” a Nama spokesman said.

“Nama has also agreed to pay for additional work on the apartments to improve them and to address fire safety issues prior to their sale. That work was expected to start in the coming weeks.”

“The occupation of these apartments by protesters will delay this work and will ultimately delay their use for social housing by DCC.”

The “Lindsay” apartment building is located near the site of the old Premier Dairies on the Finglas Road and has been unoccupied for six years.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council confirmed the building was to be opened as social housing in partnership with Cluid, a housing charity.

“They are vacant now for some time because a fire safety notice was served in relation to defects identified in the original construction of the overall apartment complex,” the spokesman said.

“Agreement was finally reached recently with the receiver, Dublin Fire Brigade and Dublin City Council on what remedial works were required.

“The receiver will in the coming weeks go to tender seeking a competent contractor to carry out the agreed works on all the apartments including our 60 apartments.

A small amount of damage was done to an entrance to the building during the occupation which was quickly repaired. The entrance was secured with a metal bar.

Premier Love Project

Colin McGettrick, a member of the Premier Love Project, had posted a video of the takeover on Facebook late on Wednesday night in which he called on other groups around the country to take over Nama-controlled buildings.

Mr McGettrick told The Irish Times at noon on Thursday that the group was asking people who had been on a waiting list for 10 years or more to come to the property where they would be given accommodation.

It is not clear if Mr McGettrick was still in the building at this stage. A Garda spokeswoman said gardaí escorted activists from the premises in the early hours of the morning.

“I’ve been on the housing list for 17 years and still haven’t been housed,” Mr McGettrick said.

“There’s people out there living in tents, cars, vans, that’s who we want to ideally house.

“There’s people dying on our streets and there’s people being treated like dogs. There’s people in desperate circumstances out there. Austerity has ripped people apart. There’s people in their graves over this Government’s policies and that’s what is driving us.

“We want to change the housing policy in this country whatever way we can,” Mr McGettrick continued. “We’re going to keep on occupying Nama buildings.”

Attempts to contact Mr McGettrick on Thursday evening proved unsuccessful.

Mr McGettrick was a prominent part of the campaign against water charges. In 2014, a High Court judge granted an injunction sought by a firm installing water meters against Mr McGettrick and eight others restraining them from interfering with or obstructing workers installing meters.

A spokeswoman for the Home Sweet Home group which is occupying Apollo House said they only heard of the Finglas takeover on Thursday morning but they were “in solidarity” with it.

“The key thing now for us, whatever banner it’s under, Home Sweet Home, or anything else, that this is now a movement of public intervention in homelessness,” Emily Duffy said.

“This is definitely part of the national movement that is being built around homelessness.”

A High Court judge ruled that those occupying Apollo House in Dublin city centre must leave the building by January 11th.

Among those supporting the occupation are high-profile artists, including singers Hozier, Glen Hansard, Damien Dempsey and Christy Moore, as well director Jim Sheridan and the band Kodaline.