The decision by the High Court judge Paul Gilligan to grant an injunction against the Apollo House occupiers and their homeless brothers and sisters but to allow them to stay until 11 January 2017 was a face-saving exercise and an astute one. It was made as hundreds of citizens of all persuasions were standing in solidarity with the defendants outside the Four Courts on Wednesday 21 December 2011 in bitterly cold weather. Support from passing traffic was loud and relentless.
Inside, the judge wrestled with some problems, not least if he were to put a stay on the injunction who would be responsible in case an accident occurred at the premises during the Christmas or new Year. An early morning radio programme had asserted that he himself would be responsible. Apparently he decided that the safer route for the establishment and himself was to compromise. That he did.
This is not a victory for the homeless. In one sense it is a partial victory for the occupiers who have not been criminalised. They have well and truly highlighted the homeless problem. But it was not the kind of victory they had hoped for. Already some of the homeless who had been resident in Apollo House have been moved to shelter in the McVerry Trust Foundation. They will be replaced by others. It would be understandable if some of the homeless might not have the stomach to appear to resist a High Court order. High Court orders are intimidatory even for the wealthiest, best fed and best housed citizens in the land. They are particularly frightening for the homeless They are intended to be so. The Court, the Government, the receivers Mazars (represented by A & L Goodbody) all profess sympathy for the cause of the occupiers and their guests but . . .
There's always a "but". The action of Judge Gilligan has saved them from the embarrassment of throwing out homeless people from a comfortable lodging just before Christmas. Christmas must not be tarnished by such grossly unjust and uncharitable actions. Come 11 January 2017 when all the Christmas fuss and goodwill has died down, that will be a different matter.
The Apollo House occupiers will know that they have the support of millions in Dublin and around the country for their courageous action . Whatever the outcome their names are written in gold.