NAMA & RECEIVERS EVICTING HOMELESS FAMILIES TO SELL MAIN STREET PROPERTY

Diarmuid Breatnach

Lynam’s Hotel in O’Connell Street is a building you could easily pass without realising what its business was. The hotel takes in mostly tourists on short-stay bookings but, as the homelessness crisis totally exceeds Dublin City Council’s minute stock and specific funded provision, DCC has also used it to place homeless families within it as with many other hotels around the city and county (and even further out).

When the owners of the hotel found themselves over-extended on loans, NAMA moved to take over the building; naturally the State agency would not wish to be seen evicting homeless families. Five families with a total of ten children were being placed there by Dublin City Council. The Hotel’s management at first wanted to cooperate with NAMA and force out the families but these, supported by Irish Housing Network, refused to leave as they had no suitable alternative accommodation (see their letter in the Appendix). One by one, the families won short extensions on their stay from the management.  Incidentally, eight workers’ jobs are also at stake.

Supporters and members of the public at campaign table outside Lynam Hotel during the week

Campaign supporters and supportive members of the public at campaign table outside Lynam Hotel during the week (photo: D. Breatnach)

During the week, the IHN set up a campaign table outside the hotel, staffed by volunteers on a rota and some additional helpers; they began to collect signatures to a petition demanding Dublin City Council take over the hotel and for NAMA not to evict the families.  They distributed leaflets (the IHN also have an on-line petition on their FB page) and by mid-week, had collected 1,000 signatures to the petition.

 

FAMILIES AND SUPPORTERS CONFRONT NAMA AND RECEIVERS

On Wednesday 27th, the families and supporters went to NAMA’s Head Office in Treasury Buildings, Grand Canal Street, D2 and from outside, asked to see the head of the state agency. Treasury Buildings management locked their building and called the police, who arrive in one squad car, then another, and then more of them on foot.

After talking to the police, NAMA offered to see one of the families only, accompanied by a supporter. The families discussed this and rejected it but offered the concession of two families plus supporter. The senior Garda officer seemed to be trying to persuade the families’ representative to accept the NAMA offer but they stood firm.  After rejecting that offer, NAMA PR spokesperson Martin Whelan came out to speak to the families and their supporters from the steps of the building. One of the campaigners speculated that this was the first occasion ever for NAMA to explain their actions to the public.

Families and supporters outside NAMA building during the week Supporters and members of the public at campaign table outside Lynam Hotel during the week (photo: D. Breatnach)

Families and supporters outside NAMA building during the week Supporters and members of the public at campaign table outside Lynam Hotel during the week (photo: D. Breatnach)

Whelan’s position was, in essence, that NAMA had no choice but to put the properties it received on the market and to sell them on. He rejected the accusation of one of the campaigners that NAMA “takes over properties and sells them at knock-down prices to vulture capitalists,” maintaining that all properties are sold at their market value.

With regard to the demand that the building be put under management as a homeless hostel by Dublin City Council, Whelan would say only that they had received no offer from the Council. That would be a decision for the Receiver, he said, in a statement that many saw as an exercise in passing the parcel.

To those who quoted him some lines from NAMA’s founding charter that its purpose was, in part “… to address the compelling need ….. to contribute to the social and economic development of the State …”, Whelan had nothing to say apart from repeating what he had said previously.

The families and campaigners presented Whelan with 1,000 signatures on petitions and indicated they would return with more and began to leave, the police also leaving as they did so.

Families and supporters confronting NAMA PR representative Martin Whelan (in blue suit) (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Families and supporters confronting NAMA PR representative Martin Whelan (in blue suit)
(Photo: D. Breatnach)

However, the families and their supporters were not finished yet and headed off for the

Some of the police that NAMA called to protect them from homeless families and supporters

Some of the police that NAMA called to protect them from homeless families and supporters with NAMA PR spokesperson Martin Whelan in the foreground (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Receivers’ office which, at Marine House, Clanwilliam Place, took some finding. Eventually located overlooking the canal in a very quiet section of the city, they entered and ascended to the 5th floor, to the business address of Crowe Howarth, a member company of the Swiss firm Crow Howarth International. The families and supporters asked to see the person in charge, Aiden Murphy, a partner in the Crow Howarth, who was allegedly outside the building and due back in ten minutes but who appeared from inside after keeping them waiting nearly an hour. Then he wanted to meet them in the lobby, which they refused and insisted on the respect of a meeting in a private office space, which Murphy eventually granted.

According to reports of that meeting, Murphy was civil to the families and assured them he would not be asking for their eviction prior to the court hearing on receivership of Lynam’s Hotel.

Some families and supporters in the lobby of Crow Howarth, Receivers (Photo source: IHN FB page )

Some families and supporters in the lobby of Crow Howarth, Receivers (Photo source: IHN FB page)

Upstairs in the Receivers' lobby (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Upstairs in the Receivers’ lobby

He was due to meet the families the next day but, apparently worried about meeting demonstrators, arranged a meeting with them in the Gresham Hotel instead (no doubt chargeable to the public). His reticence for meeting possible demonstrators was somewhat different to his previous arrival as reported by sources. with a takeover workforce, bullying staff, changing locks and issuing orders.

View down to the ground from the Crowe Howarth lobby. Ordinary people must look very small from here. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

View down to the ground from the Crowe Howarth lobby. Ordinary people must look very small from here. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

THE COURT CASE

In advance of the court hearing, hotel management seemed to be moving to place the families as a buffer between themselves and the Receiver and were reported to have asked the families for a letter stating that the accommodation offered by DCC was unsuitable. Judge Gilligan asked Dublin City Council to appear in court to answer whether they had alternative accommodation available.

On Friday 29th, DCC duly presented themselves at the High Court and assured Judge Gilligan that they had indeed alternative accommodation ready for the families. Judge Gilligan did not ask the DCC spokesperson to detail the type of accommodation they were offering nor its location and Crow Howarth made no move to do so either. The families themselves were not permitted to have a letter detailing their conditions and the type of “alternative accommodation” available (see Appendix) read out in court.

Some of the rota for the table outside the Lynam Hotel (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Some of the rota for the table outside the Lynam Hotel (Photo: D. Breatnach)

The outcome pf the case was that Lynam’s Hotel was wound up, ordered to cease trading beyond August 1st and the building is to be sold (if it is not, as rumoured, already sold) on behalf of the State to some unknown capitalist. The families will presumably be placed somewhere in the kind of conditions about which their letter complains, affecting not only the parents but the children now and into the future, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

And the housing crisis continues without any State agency or Dublin City Council making serious efforts to address it; according to the Irish Housing Network there are over 8,000 families homeless within the state and the total is growing daily.  This is in the centenary year of the 1916 Rising when that inspirational document was printed in Liberty Hall, signed in Henry Street (around the corner from Lynam’s Hotel by seven who would be shot later by firing squad) and read out and posted on Easter Monday outside the GPO in the same street as the Hotel, declaring that
The Republic guarantees equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally …..”

end

To help support these and other homeless families contact https://www.facebook.com/irishhousingnetwork

 

 

APPENDIX

 

LETTER OF LYNAM HOTEL FAMILIES TO HIGH COURT

Dear Judge Gilligan,

We the Lynams families would like to thank you for your consideration of our situation in this High Court decision. We are choosing to remain anonymous due to fear of being targeted as we are under threat to take offers that are not suitable or find ourselves with no accommodation what so ever.

We appreciate that you realise that we are extremely vulnerable at this time and are being used as pawns in the political maneuvers of the Hotel management, DCC, the Receivers and NAMA.

As a group we would like to highlight the situation in Emergency Accommodation we are currently finding ourselves in.

We are HOMELESS, yes we are lucky to have a roof over our heads but we are without a fixed abode. We are under the control of the whims of Hotel Management and the DCC.

The accommodation we can usually find ourselves in is one double sized room for one family, two rooms if you have a larger family not necessarily in the same building. Imagine if you will having to live your whole life within the confines of this room where there is:

No drinking water. No fridges to store milk for young babies. No cooking facilities. No laundry facilities to wash your own or your children’s clothes. No area for the children to play, do homework or socialise with others.

We have been offered Alternative Accommodation which is below the standard that we currently experience at Lynams and is still not suitable for our families needs. In fact there is no minimum standard for Emergency Accommodation.

Families that enter Emergency Accommodation initially start off their journey in shock with a loss of home, structure, security. Children sit in their school uniforms waiting for the hotel restaurant to open in order to grab a quick breakfast before they start their long journey to the only anchor they know which is the school they were enrolled in, before they became homeless. Families cling to this anchor, in order to enable their children to have some degree of normalcy in their lives.

Those children who do not have a home and proof of residence do not have any chance of enrolling in school, getting a doctors appointment, being referred to services or getting counseling.

Children spend their days trying to be quiet around adults that are stressed trying to find new accommodation for that night. Forbidden to associate with other children as per rules in certain establishments. They are hungry, as they wait for their parents to source food, often eating whatever food is left over from breakfast until they share one takeaway meal between the family. There is no money is left by the end of the week as it has been spent on transport. These children are disorientated, with some families ending up in hotels in Bray, Aughrim & Brittas Bay trying to get to school in north Dublin. These children lose any hope of being in a normal home, they cling to already anxious parents.

The average families moves every 5 days unless they are lucky to get a hotel/guesthouse that takes on DCC customers as permanent until placed, the length of time that takes can be upwards of 2 years. There is one family that was in Lynams for 7 months, and were informed by DCC with 4 days notice to move, they have been in hotels in several different counties in the space of 3 weeks since they moved.

We ask you to consider that this is our home, we are powerless to fight the combined forces of DCC, NAMA and the Receivers and the pressure they are putting on us. On July 22nd Management in Lynams continued to accommodate us when DCC failed us.

We ask you to consider that we are not just names on a list, we are real people, we have real lives, we have jobs, our children are being directly affected by the decision being made here today.

Even though we have no hope of a good outcome for our families we can only hope that you find it in your heart to consider all these issues of how the system for homeless families has failed us all and will continue to fail unless properly addressed.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

The Lynam families

To help support these and other homeless families contact https://www.facebook.com/irishhousingnetwork/?fref=ts

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