Dublin City Council has kick-started legal proceedings to try to have housing activists removed from the vacant local-authority building on Bolton Street known as “Bolt Hostel”.
On Tuesday, the council sought an injunction against two of the activists from the Irish Housing Network, Séamus Farrell and Aisling Hedderman, whom it claims are trespassers.
Farrell and Hedderman arrived at the Four Courts with a few dozen protestors, having marched along the main carriageway of the North Quays. The chanting attracted car horns and gawking barristers. In court, among their supporters, were People Before Profit councillors John Lyons and Tina McVeigh.
Dublin City Council’s counsel said that the council is “by no means unsympathetic” to the group. “Their aims are shared, but [the council] cannot approve of their methods”.
It did not seek an immediate removal order – only to “preserve the status quo” during the interlocutory period and preserve its access to the building at 38-39 Bolton Street in Dublin 1.
Hedderman and Farrell did not have legal representation. Farrell asked for the case to be adjourned so that they could get legal advice.
A Planning Application
In its affidavit, the council referred to a possible planned collaboration between Dublin City Council and an approved housing body, Novas Initiatives, for the site.
The Limerick-based housing non-profit had a more legitimate claim to the task of housing the homeless at the site, it argued. “The irony of this situation is that there is a planning application before the planning department to renovate [38-39 Bolton Street]. The residents have upset the arrangements of the council to deal with the housing problem.”
“The appropriation of property to persons selected by the defendants rather than via the transparent means of the housing list” was unfair, it was argued.
The council sought an order to halt any further renovation work at the hostel and to allow the council to inspect the premises. Justice Paul Gilligan granted these two orders.
The council also sought an order to bar anyone else from taking up residence in the building.
This became a sticking point. Farrell and Hedderman said they could not and would not give the court a list of residents’ names. They said the rough sleepers coming to the premises were afraid of legal trouble, and so the activists had not taken their names.
Justice Gilligan said it was the defendants’ privilege to refuse to give the names of other residents in the building. Without that list of names, he said, an order barring more people from taking occupancy would be unenforceable and so he would not grant it.
The price of anonymity was a shorter adjournment – until 18 August instead of a date in September.
Justice Gilligan said Dublin City Council had a strong case for trespass, but that that would be a matter for the adjourned hearing.
The council is to have its court-mandated inspection at 11am this Friday. The case resumes on 18 August.