High Court reporters
A charitable housing association is seeking High Court orders preventing “unknown persons” from trespassing on and occupying a Dublin city property which is to be redeveloped to house older people.
The Cabhru Housing Association, an approved housing body which provides homes for older citizens of Dublin, claims unknown individuals have gained access to the property at James McSweeney House, Berkeley Street, Dublin 7. Cabhru has 199 social housing units throughout Dublin city.
It is alleged that Cabhru is unable to gain access and there are concerns about a risk of injury, damage or fire because of apparent interference with the electricity supply which had been disconnected. There is now lighting apparent on the first floor, it is claimed.
Cabhru’s counsel Andrew Whelan BL, applied to Mr Justice Brian O’Moore on Wednesday for permission to serve notice of the proceedings on the “persons unknown in occupation” of the building, who are the defendants in the case. The application was made with only the Cabhru side represented.
The judge said, having read the papers, he shared the concerns about the possible danger arising from the activity in the property.
After Mr Whelan told him that the letter box to the property was boarded up and that access appeared to have been gained from the rear, the judge ordered that service of the papers on the defendants be by way of affixing them to the front and rear doors.
The case comes back on Thursday.
In an affidavit, Cabhru chairperson Liam Meagher said the property is owned by the association, and it has been vacant since April 2021 in circumstances where it is intended to redevelop the site to provide modern housing units for older people.
It was intended to demolish the building this year and start construction next year. Planning permission has been granted for a 35-unit complex.
The delay in progressing the work was initially due to the pandemic and later due to the cost of construction works, he said.
Cabhru had made the property secure, disconnected water, gas and electricity with the only connection being to an alarm system. It was also boarded up and a security company engaged to call to the property three times a week.
Mr Meagher said on May 12th last, the alarm was triggered after persons unknown broke in. A security officer called and found the front door blocked from inside.
The officer tried unlocking the door, but the key broke in the lock and a locksmith was later unable to remove the broken key.
When Cabhru’s building and facilities officer arrived later that night , there were possibly five people inside “purporting to act as advocates” for those inside.
One of them told the security officer he was “a revolutionary for the homeless”, that this was a civil matter, and they would not get out, Mr Meagher said.
The gardai were called and arrived, but they said trespass and occupation was a civil rather than a criminal matter, and they had no powers to intervene, he said.
On May 16th, the alarm monitoring company said the alarms, in particular the fire alarm, seemed to have been disconnected.
Mr Meagher said there is clearly a trespass on the property and that the electrical supply has been tampered with.
In those circumstances, damages are not an adequate remedy in this case and the balance of convenience favoured granting orders and injunctions seeking that the persons unknown vacate the property and preventing them from interfering with or impeding Cabhru’s representatives from gaining access, he said.