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 regards 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 a 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 not at all happy with the digs on offer up to that point.

It was relayed that HomeSweetHome had secured from the minister the providing 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 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 HomeSweetHome has collected online near €200, 000 euro which could easily provide a deposit and the first 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 GardaĆ­ 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 it is 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 Unite 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 pre-planned despite insistences 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.


  1. Rowan another good article and I am relieved and delighted that some truth and hard facts are emerging. It is difficult paddling against the current especially with such an emotional event and against some big wigs and clout.

    I notice you mention the tactic of ostracizing some groups. That is exactly the tactic they used during the water movement and they did it systematically and ruthlessly. Other things they do very well is propaganda, lies, intimidation, big events and the use of a coterie of innocent followers.

    I am in no doubt that the end goal is the growths of a political party and Unite Union. This was their agenda for some time, from the time of R2C, even from the start of Right2Water they saw the opportunity. However, I think more and more within the water movement were seeing through Unite's, Ogle's and Gibney's machinations. To get back on track, boost their profile they had to do something big to get back their mojo. Hence Xmas, the homeless and NAMA.

    I notice Ogle's statement in his facebook, a little bit like Trump if you ask me, corny. These guys are being paid big bucks and have had plenty of practice at manipulation. In this, no not a mea culpa, but everybody else's fault, his biggest excuse was,in bold, "NAMA NAMA NAMA".
    I thought if that was the reason for their actions why use 'homeless people'. The homeless issue was incidental, even NAMA is incidental. As you described they use people even the less fortunate for their own ends. That is pretty bad.

    On the subject Unite's assets in particular Merrion Square premises, they are on the attack, pulling the Focus rabbit out of the bag. However, see Irish Times article Jan 17

    quoting Jimmy Kelly Unite's General Secretary

    "He said it was his understanding that seeking the social housing exemption certificate was a necessary part of the process, but he needed to take further advice on the matter.

    “If it is a question that we were doing something inappropriate in making the application for the social housing exemption, then we would withdraw that immediately. We are in no way trying to stop the building from having social housing.”

    When asked why the building, which has been vacant for three years, had not been put to use for housing or a homeless hostel, Mr Kelly said the issue “never arose”.

    He added: “We were getting on with what we were doing and not really thinking about Merrion Square .”

    Notice he said "never arose". Also they did not have to apply for and exemption but did so.

  2. This was a very interesting series of articles. With 'professional progressives' comes factionalism, and sublimation of the original ethos because they apparently have access to structures that make certain things easier (media attention,bureacracy issues etc) but de-radicalises the grass roots as they engage less. Its not just your experience Rowan.

  3. Sorry to double post, but I am minded of the Brendan Hughes annecdote of being stopped by a non IRA member (hehe) from firing into a crowd that were pelting the British Army with stone because that would of broke the radicalisation process, at shots being fired they would of gone home and delegated responsibility for opposition to the IRA.

  4. AM I have a limited experience of Dr Rory Hearne in the R2W/R2C controversy and I am not impressed. Initially I was hopeful but as time went on I saw that he was a big supporter of R2W Unite/Mandate union leadership and take over, still is I believe. I also was not impressed by his pursuit of a senate seat. I am amazed how supposedly enlightened people are not too enlightened after all, merely self-aggrandisement. I would like to be persuaded otherwise.

    We presented a critique of major problems and one would think that that deserved some sort of investigation. We got none from the organisation of which Mr Hearne was enjoyed the top table.

  5. James,

    I have no view on him either way, knowing nothing about him. I thought it worthwhile to flag up a link sent to me by someone who thought it deserved a mention.

    We are grateful to Rowan Clarke for putting this batch of articles together, not because we agree with the perspective but because we think the points he raises merit discussion and, if need be, rebuttal. I have spoken with some of the people who gave a lot of time to the Apollo House occupation before and after the articles. They would see it differently. I hope they put their thoughts down on TPQ because they deserve an airing.