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THE UNITE TRADE union has said the building that formerly housed its headquarters at 15 Merrion Square in Dublin was offered as accommodation for the homeless three years ago.The building was rejected by homelessness charity Focus Ireland as “completely unsuitable for their needs,” the union said.This evening’s statement was issued in response to a story published by RTÉ News yesterday revealing that a trust connected to Unite applied to be exempted from social housing for a development at its former HQ around the time one of the union’s top officials, Brendan Ogle, was engaged in the Apollo House occupation.Unite has applied to turn the Merrion Square building into one residential unit, with an apartment building behind it, and the union’s trust applied for an exemption from using those units for social housing. That application was granted by Dublin City Council last month, on the same day Ogle gained access to Apollo House.That initial occupation – backed by a group of activists and musicians – became a four-week takeover of the Tara Street building, which was converted into a temporary hostel for the homeless and led to a public debate about the issue.Use of the exemption – regarded as routine for a development such as this – and the fact that the building had been lying idle for years, as the housing crisis worsened, led to accusations of hypocrisy against Ogle and his union. A group called Hands Off The Homeless staged a demonstration at the site yesterday – accusing the union of a “publicity stunt” at Apollo House.Ogle occupied #ApolloHouse while his Union HQ had been empty for 3 years and applied for social housing exemption! https://t.co/0zEm25HygM— Cllr. Keith Redmond (@CllrKRedmond) January 16, 2017
Source: Cllr. Keith Redmond/TwitterOgle occupied #ApolloHouse while his Union HQ had been empty for 3 years and applied for social housing exemption! https://t.co/0zEm25HygMUnite says there is no parallel between its plan to build apartments and Apollo House https://t.co/X6MbTdnvQ2— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) January 16, 2017
Source: TheJournal.ie/TwitterUnite says there is no parallel between its plan to build apartments and Apollo House https://t.co/X6MbTdnvQ2Unite said yesterday that that take was “disingenuous”.They were trying to sell the former Amicus offices because they’re “in poor condition, with the benefit of planning permission for apartments” a statement said. The union insisted it simply wanted to maximise the resources it had for members.In a fresh statement this evening Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said that when Unite vacated the building “we contacted a number of NGOs working in the area of emergency housing provision and invited them to inspect the premises and assess their suitability.A spokesperson for Focus Ireland told TheJournal.ie that Unite had asked the organisation if it was interested in using the building “while the union was developing its own plans for future use of the premises”.Elsewhere in this evening’s statement, Unite said that they were initially contacted by RTÉ News about the story on Saturday, and had promised to respond in full by today.Kelly said that was because the trust in question (Unite the Union Trustee Company) did “not work over the weekend” and that he needed that much time to search the union’s records for the relevant documentation.RTÉ has been asked for comment.