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Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said the takeover of vacant office block Apollo House in Dublin by representatives of Home Sweet Home and the Irish Housing Network is not the way to deal with the homelessness situation.
Mr Coveney insisted in the Dáil that “there is an emergency bed for everyone who wants one”.
He was speaking during debate on controversial legislation to curb rent increases which passed last night by 52 votes to 43 with 25 abstentions. Fianna Fáil abstained from the vote.
Supporters of the homeless who took over the office block expect to house 30 people in makeshift bedrooms in the 10-storey building, owned by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).
AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett had asked the Minister to use some influence with Nama “to allow the plumbers to be able to install the water and heat into the building to accommodate homeless people who would otherwise be on the street, freezing over the next several weeks”.
Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte became emotional about the issue as she supported Mr Boyd Barrett’s call. “Whether it be right or wrong, in the week before Christmas those people need a roof over their heads. I am emotional about it,” she said.
“It is very easy for us to walk down Grafton Street and pass people who are putting down a bed for the night. It is not right. That is the social conscience in me.”
Mr Coveney said, however, there was nobody more aware than he was of the challenges that homeless families and individuals faced.
“To occupy a building and try and put supports together in an ad hoc way is not the way to deal with this.”
The answer there is to sit and work out sustainable solutions where the State will put in the supports, he added.
They should engage with the Dublin Homeless Executive but Apollo House was not kitted out to look after people with complex needs. He said the new shelter was to be opened in Francis Street in Dublin on Saturday with 80 beds and there were facilities there.
A number of TDs, including Mr Boyd Barrett, wore T-shirts in the Dáil bearing the “Home Sweet Home” design.
It is against Dáil protocols to wear clothing or emblems with a political slogan and the angle of cameras in the House adjusted to reduce the visibility of the T-shirts.
The Planning and Development (Housing)and Residential Tenancies Bill contains a total of 117 amendments and involved in some cases debate on intricate amendments to amendments of original amendments.
Among them was what the Minister called the Tyrrelstown amendment where tenants were evicted en masse at short notice to allow houses be sold in west Dublin.
He said the Attorney General had advised that constitutional property rights came into play if a landlord evicted a tenant to sell one house and this was permissible. He had been advised that 10 was the number of units where the property rights of the man would override the property rights of the landlord.
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen asked the Minister to reduce this to five units. He pledged to look at the issue again in the new year but the legal advice was to set the limit at 10.
The House adjourned for Christmas until Tuesday, January 17th, 2017.