Thank You, Apollo

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From top: Apollo House last Wednesday; Dr Rory Hearne

Before Apollo, there was a feeling that we were collectively stuck in a sad and shameful silence – a sense of powerlessness that there was little we could do.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

Thank you, Apollo and Home Sweet Home.

Before Apollo the only sound was silence. The homeless suffered in silence.

We saw their suffering and were silent. The dignity of our fellow human beings was stripped from them on our streets and was stripped from them again in hostels more dangerous than the cold and rainy streets.

There was silence about the thousands of children and their families being forced to live in unsuitable emergency accommodation with hugely traumatic impacts.

There was silence in relation to the thousands of families in mortgage arrears facing the threat of repossession and eviction, the thousands whose homes have been bought by vultures and Real Estate Investment Trusts.

There was only silence as thousands of families, renting in the private rented sector, struggle to afford the rents and face eviction, and as 100,000 households languish on social housing waiting lists.

Before Apollo, there was silence as the Government and NAMA went about selling our land and houses at knock-down prices to vulture property speculators.

But, of course, in saying there was just silence – I am just deliberatiely being provocative. There wasn’t complete silence about the housing crisis.

There was a lot of noise being made, particularly by Government. But it was loud and empty political rhetoric. Empty phrases. Hollow platitudes and feigned concern. Policies without sincerity. Plans without substance. Media interviews without analysis.

There was fictitious numbers of imaginary social houses that would only ever exist on paper; NAMA strategies based on feeding the speculative vultures and starving our people of homes.

It was, in fact, a post-colonial re-colonisation by vultures – facilitated once more by our own quisling class – the so-called political ‘leaders’, the so called ‘experts’. Those who know better than us. Those who make the ‘right’ decisions.

So, of course, there was a lot of ‘official’ noise about the housing crisis but much of it was no better than silence. In fact, it was worse than silence because it gave the impression officialdom actually cared and they were doing something that would solve it.

But, most importantly and most shamefully, there was too much silence from the Irish people. Did we care? Did anyone make any real noise? Yes, in fact there was a growing move for change. The housing crisis and homelessness was raised by ordinary people as a major election issue. It forced politicians to give it some focus.

And, of course, it is not true that before Apollo House the only sound from the Irish people was silence. In the communities of North Dublin, of St Michael’s Estate – the seeds of Apollo were being sown in the pioneering actions and vision of a new generation of housing activists involved in the Irish Housing Network, Housing Action Now, the Dublin Tenants Association, Erica Fleming, the Ringsend Glass Bottle Site Housing Action Campaign, the North Dublin Bay Housing Action Community, Uplift, and many more.

A new trade union-led campaign had just emerged to focus on rent certainty and security. The NGOs such as Focus, Simon and the Peter McVerry Trust were actively responding – providing services and constantly highlighting the growing tsunami of homelessness.

But, before Apollo, there was a feeling that we were collectively stuck in a sad and shameful silence – a sense of powerlessness that there was little we could do.

But that has all changed and changed utterly.

Apollo and Home Sweet Home have brought about an unprecedented level of public and political focus and attention on the housing crisis, in particular:

· The extent of the homelessness crisis

· The illogicality and immorality of empty State-owned NAMA buildings while people are homeless on our streets

· The unacceptable standards that exist in some emergency accommodation

· The necessity of homes rather than emergency hostels

· The inadequacy of the Government’s plans to address the housing crisis outlined in ‘Rebuilding Ireland’.

Apollo and Home Sweet Home have stirred the spirits and hearts of the Irish people. It touched and activated the deep sense of social justice and solidarity that exists in people. Across social classes and across the country, it captivated and captured the majority of the country in a wave of optimistic belief that we can end this national shame of ever-worsening levels of homelessness.

In Apollo, homeless people, artists, ordinary citizens, trade unionists and activists together created a transformative space that inspired, motivated, and connected with the country in a myriad of magical ways.

Apollo evoked in all of us the urgent and giddy dream of an equal Republic.

Apollo was always going to be temporary – given the priority the courts and Government gives to private property rights – it could only but be so.

But, that short moment of courage and vision has opened up a societal conversation and debate and the beginnings of a societal wide social movement that would not have existed. Indeed was unimaginable prior to Apollo House.

And after Apollo, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney can no longer use his misleading figures to silence us. Home Sweet Home have highlighted the policies required to really address the homelessness and wider housing crisis. Principally, these include::

· A new major investment programme in social and affordable housing that actually builds tens of thousands of new social and affordable housing units each year

· The changing of NAMA’s commercial mandate to a social one and converting it into an affordable homes agency that would use its land and assets to build tens of thousands of social and affordable housing rather than selling off to vultures

· Real protection for tenants renting and families in mortgage arrears from eviction

After Apollo, there is no longer silence or powerlessness. There can no longer be silence and passivity. Property rights and profit rights can no longer be allowed to obstruct the human right to a home.

The question is where to now? Across the country people want to take action to address the homelessness and housing crisis. They know the crisis is only going to worsen. Those most affected require on-going support. Apollo inspired and provided a focus for solidarity, practical support, and a symbol of hope and defiance.

At its heart – Apollo was (and Home Sweet Home remains) a community and a coalition of diverse groups and individuals all willing to work together to achieve the one common aim – the right to a home for all. By keeping that common heart beating, we will find a way forward.

Apollo is not over. It has just begun.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academc, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Rollingnews

61 thoughts on “Thank You, Apollo

  1. DubLoony

    Silence? Really?
    No-one had any idea that we had a housing problem in this country before HSH campaign?

    1. scottser

      exactly. this guy’s a sham, nothing more. nothing like piggybacking a good cause to further your own career, eh rory?

          1. Happy Molloy

            “Apey Molloy”!
            There it is again, that caustic wit!
            We’re all waiting here with baited breath for your next world famous put down!
            Won’t be long until you have completely cleared broadsheet of commenters I’ll wager!

          1. Taanbuaagam

            It must make you feel like such a big fella attacking an activist who had the discipline and regard for fellow citizens to give something back to society after it gave him an education?
            I mean I can only imagine the stiffy you might have attacking a guy here in the Internet because he had the temerity to try and publish some remarks about “your” homeless people. The Irish are really the most banal insular gangs of spineless backstabbing cynical begrudgers

          2. Happy Molloy

            Straight for the jugular there T! Nicely done, leave him begging for mercy, clear this place out!

    2. Vote Rep #1

      or a homeless problem.

      That Peter McVerry lad, the boyos in the Capuchin Centre and all the other charities and volunteers that have been helping the homeless for years need to up their game a bit and maybe get this lad on board or else all their hard work will just be whitewashed away, regardless of the fact that they are on the radio and in the newspapers quite a bit before HSH appeared.

    3. Listrade

      Stoopid doctor using “silence” in his article, then qualifying a few paragraphs later why he used that term and explaining that there wasn’t actually silence and it was his own hyperbole to emphasise political impotence, incompetence, ignorance and their contempt for the homeless crisis.

      Damn him.

      1. rotide

        Actually he didn’t really qualify it. He just said ‘ There was silence…. Actually there wasn’t silence’.

        It’s not exactly biting satire.

        1. Listrade

          To quote, “But, of course, in saying there was just silence – I am just deliberatiely [sic] being provocative. There wasn’t complete silence about the housing crisis.”

          The 4 paragraphs explaining what he means, closing with “So, of course, there was a lot of ‘official’ noise about the housing crisis but much of it was no better than silence. In fact, it was worse than silence because it gave the impression officialdom actually cared and they were doing something that would solve it.”

          I’d say he actually did qualify the statement. But you’re still free to be offended on behalf of people he never slighted in the first place. Plus, it wasn’t satire and never claims to be. It is possible to be provocative without an attempt at satire.

          1. Vote Rep #1

            I took that as to mean that there was noise from the government but it was all fake platitudes to make it seem that they were doing something when in fact they were not. HSH were the ones making the noise for the homeless.

            Bit harsh on all the other groups who having out helping the homeless for years and who are regularly in the news talking about it.

  2. Anomanomanom

    Why do you keep giving this bloke time on the site, apart from the fact you get a lot of comments, he talks utter poo. He must walk around with his head stuck up his bottom area.

  3. rotide

    The opening of this article is actually offensive. Trump may as well have written that.

    And there’s still a typo in the byline.

    1. Listrade

      “The opening of this article is actually offensive. Trump may as well have written that.”

      Offensive how?

      1. rotide

        Because hundreds, if not thousands of people actively work and volunteer to try to alleviate the homeless crisis. There wasn’t silence from people about it. Dr Hearne’s assertion that it only counts if it’s front page and high profile is Trumpian.

        1. Listrade

          It isn’t an assertion, it is hyperbole to make a point. He’s saying that all that work has been for nothing because of the silence from the government, or at least the failure to act by the government. That is made clear. But yeah, he’s just like Trump.

          There is a slight parallel to Trump, but not the good doctor above. Like Meryl Streep’s mocking the disabled watershed, the fact that someone died literally on the doorstep of the government and they still did nothing should have been the watershed. It should have been the point the government did something, it should have been the point we demanded something.

          He isn’t blaming or accusing the current charities, he’s blaming and accusing us and the government. He’s right.

          The charities are working hard. Has anyone said different? But all their work is just plugging holes in the dam. People are still homeless. There are still vacant properties.

          But it’s ok because we bought the charity Christmas cards. We liked their facebook page. Some even went to the Outdoor Shop to get an expensive sleeping bag and coat fit for Antarctica so we could spend a night on the street for charity and show our solidarity. We’re absolved from blame because we did our bit right?

          We keep hearing how the homeless problem is complex and it is, but we’ve let that be an excuse to do nothing. It’s complex, so we can’t act right now, not without a committee set up and a never ending discussion for a year. People were still homeless. There were still vacant properties.

          Causes of social problems are complex, but we let that be an excuse to do nothing. We let them away with it. No matter what we say, no matter how much we begrudge the media attention to HSH, we didn’t care enough to force change. That’s what he means by silence. Sometimes, the only action is direct. You have to kick the fuppin doors in and worry about mission statements and social policy protocol later.

          How complex was the solution? Empty building, made habitable in a matter of days, people off the street. Simple. Not perfect, not elegant, not permanent. It didn’t involve a 4 year debate on the socioeconomic theories of the causes of homelessness and the most suitable accommodation, location, planning, consultation documents, etc. It was quick, direct and it made the point.

          The existing charities can be peeved that HSH got so much more attention than they did. But it is infuriating to hear them discuss about “complexities”, that just means they’re happy with the status quo (which it actually isn’t because the crisis is getting worse), they’re happy with the inaction of the government.

          Forget the complexities and causes, if we had access to all the vacant properties how many are useable? How many could be made available and habitable? How many people could that take off the streets? Even if it gets 50% of people off the streets, that’s better than where we are now. That’s what HSH achieved. It exposed the inaction it exposed that people are always happy with a problem continuing while they have an endless search for the perfect solution. There isn’t a perfect solution and never will be. Let’s start with the easy solution that helps some people. Then look at the next solution that helps a few more and so on until we’re as good as we can possibly be.

          So yeah, complete Trumpian opening statement that was qualified a few paragraphs later and is actually right and not attacking the people you assert were being attacked. Other than that, fair point.

          1. scottser

            ‘There isn’t a perfect solution and never will be’.

            yes there is. build more housing and provide more supports to keep people in their homes. you say it’s easier said than done? well stop thinking of housing as ‘property’ and think of it as an investment in our future.

            there will always be people who right now, just need a place to crash. who are in pain, who can not conceive of ‘normalcy’ the way you or i do and who will never manage a tenancy. and for those people there are enough places in homeless services for those services to cope.

            the problem, is that homelessness is being experienced by households who’s only issue is housing, and who should never ordinarily experience it. that is a failure of housing policy and lack structural investment planning. to me, either way, there won’t be a ‘perfect solution’ under this government, that’s for sure.

          2. rotide

            He’s 4 paragraphs in before he mentions the government. The fact was there wasn’t silence from people in the last year or two. The homeless crisis has been very much front and centre since Mr Corry became an accidental figurehead for it (seeing as he wasn’t homeless and would be a much better figurehead for Addiction and Mental Health).

            Just going to take issue with one of your points.
            How complex was the solution? Empty building, made habitable in a matter of days, people off the street. Simple. Not perfect, not elegant, not permanent. It didn’t involve a 4 year debate on the socioeconomic theories of the causes of homelessness and the most suitable accommodation, location, planning, consultation documents, etc. It was quick, direct and it made the point.

            So a non permanent quick fix that is unsustainable is a better alternative than actual research into how to alleviate the cause of the problem?

            We need both.

  4. Anne

    Well said Rory..

    And fupp the begrudging whingebags around here too. The ones involved in housing somehow seem particularly jealous of you. Anne Marie McNally got it. They even drove that dreamboat Mercille away. Jealous begrudgers is all they are.

    It most definitely brought more awareness and it was an awkward embarassment for the government (presuming those in gov. are capable of such feelings)

    Well done.

  5. Baffled

    “Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academc, social justice campaigner”

    What’s an academc?

    Also, is Hearne still a member of the People Before Profit party?

      1. Kenny Plank

        It’s a pretend academic. In other words someone from followed the beaten track from TCD SU to either the Seanad or Maynooth.

        http://www.tasc.ie/about/staff.html

        No mention of his involvement in that rotten borrough of privilege Trinity College Dublin, where he was President of the Students’ Union:

  6. thecitizenatbarneys

    “Property rights can no longer be allowed obstruct the human right to a home”

    Ok….

    Where would this non-property based home be located? Maybe it’s around the corner from reality – between the “warm fuzzy dreams” shop and your office.

  7. Elizabeth Mainwaring

    Oh, Dr Dreamy Herne!

    It sounds to me like the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

    What silken phrases, what juicy hyperbole!

  8. Murtles

    When you have such a self-absorbed, egotistical, gravy train riding government like ours, it doesn’t matter if you’re silent or louder than loud, it’ll all fall on deaf ear once between elections. Over 250,000 people took part in marches and protests against water charges and all you have to do is look at 3 or 4 newspapers today to see they’re still trying to implement them.

    1. rotide

      Water charges are going to have to happen. There were a lot of reasons that people were against the implentation of the charges and a lot of people who marched accept that charges in some form are neccesary.

        1. Anne

          admins, this is a ridiculous claim from this whinebag. I’m not happy with ye leaving that absolute codswallop there for all to see. admins!! This is unacceptable! what about standards. we need better standards lol

          1. Anne

            Rotsey, I’d say most people weren’t marching in favour of water charges. It’s just a wild guess that they feel the same way and haven’t been convinced otherwise.

            And I’d say more people feel the same way who’ve never went out and marched.

            If we’re being led to believe that only 10% of people need to be charged as these are the percentage of people using an excess of what’s considered a reasonable amount of usage, then it’s not financially prudent to be monitoring everyone’s usage with the costs entailed in this. And there are ways of finding who’s wasting water besides metering every single household.

            I don’t ever see water charges being accepted in this country.

          2. rotide

            I’m not sure why I’m bothering but here goes.

            1. The anti-water movement was made up of a lot of different flavors – the ‘we already pay through other means of taxation’, the ‘we need to be charged for water, but don’t need a gravy train quango for it’, the ‘it’s another form of taxation in a time of austerity’ etc etc, the list goes on. All of this can be inferred from the deluge of comment about the movement on these and other pages.

            2. Why should only 10% of people be charged for excessive use? There is a very significant argument to be made that EVERYONE needs to be charged for the water they useas it is basically another public utility. That’s an argument for another thread however and it has been done to death over the last few years, but it can’t be ignored.

            3. The jury’s out on that. For my money, water charges would have sailed through with little fuss 15 years ago. Times change, never say never.

  9. Frilly Keane

    You are incorrect in a number of your remarks above Doctor Herne

    But its not like working within the voluntary / social housing sector is your livelihood
    So you’re unlikely to get sued or loose sleep over your
    Incompetence and blatant attention seeking
    Which
    Actually makes you a harmless poseur
    Good news for you
    Since you might make a better show of yourself in the next Seanad election

    As for Brendan Ogle
    At least he can drive a train
    If the Bus Drivers can’t tempt him

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