High Court reporters
Work has halted on the conversion of a former homeless shelter into accommodation for Ukrainian refugee because the building has been taken over by a group calling itself the Revolutionary Workers Union, the High Court has heard.
Lefroy House on Eden Quay in Dublin City centre had been operating as emergency accommodation for minors in crisis for many years until its closure in early 2021.
The Salvation Army, which holds a long lease on the property, had been renovating the building to accommodate refugees from Ukraine, hoping to open its doors to the first group in June.
However, those plans are now on hold after the building was allegedly broken into and occupied on May 1st by a group calling itself the Revolutionary Workers Union, whose members are allegedly refusing to vacate the property.
It is claimed the group intends to use the building to accommodate homeless people.
On Friday afternoon, lawyers for the Salvation Army (Republic of Ireland) Company (SA) commenced High Court proceedings against persons unknown, who it is alleged are illegally occupying and trespassing on the premises.
Niall Buckley BL, for the Salvation Army, told the court that despite his client’s efforts to communicate with those in occupation, the SA cannot access the premises, nor continue their repairs of the building so it can be used to house refugees.
Counsel said his clients were given an email address to communicate with the occupiers, but no substantial meetings nor talks have taken place.
He added there have been several posts about the occupation on social media.
Mr Buckley said one of the persons believed to be in occupation had, while wearing a black balaclava, given an interview to an online media channel.
In the interview, the person said the building was seized after being made the subject of a ‘People’s Acquisition Order’ and was taken over ‘in the spirit of the 1916 Rising’.
The person also made claims about the building’s condition and a purported attempt by gardaí and security staff to enter the premises, which counsel said his client does not accept.
‘Republicans in occupation’
The interviewee also made a statement intended to prevent anyone from retaking the building by saying that there are republicans in occupation there.
Counsel said the occupiers have also renamed the building as ‘James Connolly House’ after the Trade Unionist and Socialist Republican executed following the 1916 Rising.
The group have also flown flags and banners from the building, reading: “Housing for the People”.
Counsel said the Salvation Army, which is a registered charity, has concerns about the building and needs to carry out works on the roof and steps to prevent water egress, adding that its fire detection system needs to be regularly checked.
As a result of the alleged illegal occupation of the property, the Salvation Army seeks an injunction requiring persons in the premises, and all others who have knowledge of the order, to cease trespassing, vacate the building, and not interfere with the owner’s agents from taking possession of the former hostel.
The matter came before Ms Justice Emily Egan on Friday afternoon, who on an ex-parte basis granted the Salvation Army permission to serve short notice of the injunction’s proceedings on those in the building.
The judge said that at this stage of the proceedings it was accepted that the plaintiff had made out a strong case that was likely to succeed at trial.
However, the court was not prepared at this stage of the proceedings to grant any interim injunction against what are persons whose identities are currently unknown. The judge said it was better that the persons in occupation be made aware of the proceedings first.
The judge added it was unlikely that anything will be done in relation to the premises when the matter next returns before the court, adjourning the case until Wednesday.