Aodhan O Faolain
The owners of a disused Dublin building that had been illegally occupied and used by a group calling itself the Revolutionary Housing League as accommodation for the homeless have regained possession of the property.
Four men were brought before the High Court on Monday afternoon following their arrest by members of An Garda Síochana. They had been found on the premises on Monday morning at Parkgate House, 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.
Respondents avoid jail
While three of the four – Mr Sean Doyle, Mr Stephen Maher and Mr 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 the 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, representing the owners, said his client did not want to see any of the parties jailed for contempt.
The judge then adjourned the proceedings generally and gave the parties liberty to come back to the court should the need arise.
Refusal to comply with order
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.
The state has failed people by allowing housing to become “a commodity”, he said.
Mr Doyle likened the current situation to other scandals such as the mother and baby homes, and the Magdalen laundries.
He said that the Revolutionay 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, who he said had been bailed out for millions by the Irish taxpayer.
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, as a judge, has no role in what are political matters.
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”.
Interruption to proceedings
The proceedings were interrupted on occasions by persons, 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 persons 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 the injunction requiring the building to be vacated.
It was claimed the building 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 Seán Heuston, had indicated that they had no intention of leaving the property.