From top: John Kilraine of RTÉ; Unite’s Brendan Ogle; a RTÉ Radio 1 tweet yesterday, and the Planned development at Unite’s HQ
Further to the report on RTÉ yesterday about trade union Unite and its former headquarters on Merrion Square, which has been empty for three years.
RTÉ reported that “a trust connected to the trade union Unite applied to be exempted from social housing for a development at its former headquarters…while one of its top officials was planning the occupation of Apollo House…”.
The report went on to say Brendan Ogle, of Unite and the Home Sweet Home movement, gained access to Apollo House a day after Unite’s application for a Social Housing Exemption Cert was granted by Dublin City Council.
Further to this…
Mr Ogle writes:
We knew that there was an agenda at work in RTÉ, re: Apollo House, as long ago as Tuesday, December 27th. Carole Coleman sat outside with a cameraman for three hours wondering if she could get in and get some footage.
At that stage, no media had gotten inside to record footage and they, and the public, were quite understandably eager to have a look. Eventually, Carole’s patience paid off and I personally walked her and the cameraman into Apollo House where they spent the best part of an hour. What they had seen was remarkable. Beautiful even.
They had private bedrooms, communal areas, kitchens, medical room and facilities, and an environment of joy. Carole herself expressed her gratitude and how impressed she was and she and the cameraman were treated with the utmost courtesy throughout. Carole got so much footage that she told me it may have to be rolled out over two days.
I looked forward to seeing Apollo House on the Six One news that evening but, alas, no. So I contacted Carole, who rang me back to say that she had encountered an unforeseen problem. RTÉ had decided that there was a legal prohibition on them airing the footage!
Really? Nobody in RTÉ had told the Claire Byrne Live show there was a legal problem when they had repeatedly requested access to Apollo House the week before Christmas. Nobody in TV3 had a legal problem entering and filming in Apollo House for Tonight With Michael Clifford.
Nobody in The Irish Times had, nobody in the Sunday Business Post had and even RTÉ (Prime Time) forgot about their problem a week later.
I knew exactly why RTÉ didn’t show the footage then and I told Carole Coleman. They didn’t show it because it was too positive, it looked too good, and it wasn’t the message RTÉ wanted to communicate.
RTÉ wants to support and uphold the inequality in this state. I have written much about RTÉ’s shameful behaviour in their coverage of the water campaign. And it is getting worse. RTÉ, as an impartial public service broadcaster, is dead. And getting ‘deader’.
Throughout the Right2Water campaign, RTE’s agenda-setting reportage has stood in stark contrast with the events on the streets in the eight massive days we have had both in number, and in tone.
Massive festivals of good nature and change are routinely reported as small side demonstrations in a tone as sour as month-old milk.
I was driving back to Dublin last Wednesday trying to get some order on the ridiculous High Court decision.
I spoke to John Kilraine and he asked me where I was. He was outside Apollo House and I told him Glen Hansard and I would be there to talk to him on the Nine News, which he agreed to on the phone.
We got there at 8:58pm precisely. Kilraine was in the RTÉ broadcast van outside and as the news began he wasn’t coming out. So I texted him. He said we were tight for the 9 o’clock news and I told him we were outside. Waiting on him. Silence. More silence. 9:15pm, silence. 9:20, silence.
I told Terry McMahon “he is waiting until it’s too late because he doesn’t want us on live wrecking their agenda setting reportage with some honesty”.
9:25pm, when the news was over, Kilraine finally found the door handle to exit and tell Terry and I what we already knew, “it’s too late”.
Last Saturday afternoon, I was with my children on an important family weekend and John Kilraine started texting me. I couldn’t deal with it so Dave Gibney rang him.
When Dave told me what he wanted later I wasn’t shocked. Nothing about the dishonest, sneaky agenda setting of this shameful entity that used to pass for an impartial public service broadcast station surprises me after the water campaign and the events set out above.
Why didn’t we put up homeless people in an empty Unite building on Merrion Square? He knew the answer well. He knew a trade union, or Jim Sheridan’s house, or Mattress Mick’s warehouse, or Glen Hansard’s wardrobe was not the point.
NAMA! NAMA! NAMA!
We, the people, already owned NAMA and that was the point of Apollo House. And it was massive. It held 40 people with the judge’s say-so, and could have helped up to 100 in total. But that is not the point.
The point is sabotage of a campaign that has the State and its mouthpieces very worried.
Kilraine asked detailed planning questions and, as property was not my area, he was passed on to Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly. Jimmy quickly found out that this matter was being handled by architects in London. Unite is a large union.
Trade Union representatives don’t do their property deals. Jimmy told Kilraine he would answer all his questions in as much detail as he liked by Tuesday. (Remember this happened over a weekend when offices are closed so it would be [Monday] before we could even start getting information – clearly our sources aren’t as quick as Kilraine’s in – wait for it… Dublin City Council).
I offered him a live interview on [yesterday evening’s] Six One news, knowing full well that “the man in the van” wouldn’t want me calling him and his behaviour out live on TV. And of course he didn’t.
Then there were the sinister elements.
The man who invaded a social housing complex in Finglas, calling for backup to take attention away from Home Sweet Home while he was panned by the media, somehow got hold of Kilraine’s interest in Unite’s empty building in Merrion Square and turned up with seven people, just while Kilraine happened to be passing by, and these renowned union haters read a prepared statement. How do these things happen? Any guesses anyone?
Another man, the only one to be thrown out of Apollo House and who has been railing against the machine ever since, was slaughtered by the media nine days ago for having a troubled, and troubling, past.
But, two days ago, he became the trusted source of a front page story in a Sunday paper lashing Home Sweet Home.
[Yesterday] morning I messaged John Kilraine that he was never to contact me again. About anything.
He then decided, and got permission from RTÉ, to run his ‘story’ before Unite had had the chance to get the proper information from London. Why not wait until Tuesday
Former Minister Alan Kelly (not a man Unite or I am known to be on friendly terms with) changed the social housing provisions such that properties of 10 units or less are exempted from the social housing requirements. The development of the Unite building in Merrion Square is for just four units. Everybody who doesn’t have 10 properties or more is required to fill out a form proving this. Declaring this. This is ‘the story’?
The implication, if Kilraine was right, would be that workers who are our members would have to give their assets, like a tax, to the state? So, Denis O’Brien and Apple don’t have to??
Trade Unions are not-for-profit ‘friendly societies’ run for, and by, their members through democratic structures. I am very proud to be a trade unionist, to be in Unite and to stand on my record as a representative and activist over many years. And I intend to go even further.
As we have been discussing for a considerable time, and as these events prove, our media and our democracy is broken and agenda-laden. The country is being run by, and for, elites embedding inequality in everyone and everything.
We will be launching in the coming months a daily news media outlet to go with our existing permanent political school for communities all over Ireland.
Furthermore, we will be launching a Unity Movement to ensure campaigns such as the water campaign and Home Sweet Home will not only continue, but expand. And Unite will be using it’s Dublin property and it’s members support to enable that movement.
Everything I have done from helping save workers’ pensions in ESB to the water campaign, and on to Home Sweet Home I have done at great personal risk, cost and sacrifice. It is not what I do. It is who I am.
Am I subjected to such hate and abuse because there are some that simply cannot believe that we do what we do because we believe in it?
– I own no home or property. I am a renter
– In 2016 I was driven out of Dublin (where I work) to rent elsewhere due to rising rents
– I have no assets, wealth, shares capital or great material goods
– I do my best to pay my bills, look after my family and meet my commitments
To be subjected to this disgusting behaviour in the media, and for some in the media to be working hand in hand with mysterious and unsavoury elements to attack my trade union and I, must mean that we are getting somewhere.
But it isn’t easy.
I appeal for all who want to change Ireland for the better to support us, face this down, and build our movement.
Some edits have been made. Rights of reply welcome.
Related: RTÉ: United In Ignorance
Focus Ireland has confirmed that the Unite union offered temporary use of its former headquarters to homelessness services some years ago.
Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said the offer was made to house the homeless.
A Focus Ireland spokesman said the property was reviewed by the charity and “found to be totally unsuitable for any of our projects or housing as it would have required extensive refurbishment, significant investment and planning permission”.