Local TD Paul Murphy last night accused RTE of trying to damage the positivity surrounding the Home Sweet Home campaign with a fake news attack on trade union Unite.
Speaking during the debate on the Anti Eviction Bill, Deputy Murphy said a story RTE ran on Monday was “disingenuous” and its sole purpose was to “undo the message that something can be done…that collective action can be taken to tackle the housing crisis.”
The RTÉ story in question alleged that trade union Unite had applied to have its former headquarters on Merrion Square, which has been empty for three years, exempted from social housing while at the same time one of the union’s top officials Brendan Ogle was planning the occupation of Apollo House.
They also alleged that Brendan Ogle had gained access to Apollo House a day after Unite’s application for a Social Housing Exemption Cert was granted by Dublin City Council.
Brendan Ogle rubbished RTE’s claims in a statement yesterday which said, among other things:
“Former Minister Alan Kelly (not a man Unite or I am known to be on friendly terms with) changed the social housing provisions such that properties of 10 units or less are exempted from the social housing requirements.
“The development of the Unite building in Merrion Square is for just four units.
“Everybody who doesn’t have 10 properties or more is required to fill out a form proving this. Declaring this.”
This prompted Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Murphy to call out RTE in the Dail chamber yesterday. He said:
“The underlying message (of the RTE story) was clear, it was unmistakable, that they (Unite) were hypocrites for protesting on the one hand and for participating in the occupation of Apollo House but on the other hand seeking a social housing exemption.
“You want to talk about fake news, here we go.
“This was fake news peddled by RTE because the truth was the key point of Apollo House is that we own Apollo House, it’s owned by NAMA, it’s a public building and public resources like NAMA should be used to provide housing.
“The truth was that Unite had no legal option but to seek a social housing exemption…it emerged Unite had approached Focus Ireland and other housing NGO’s to give the building for the provision of homeless services but it wasn’t suitable so this was a non story.
“If RTE had waited a day they would have had that last piece of information.”
Deputy Murphy went on to explain why he believes the national broadcaster decided to run the story even though they didn’t have all the facts. He said:
“The purpose was to try and damage the campaign, to try and undo the positive image that Home Sweet Home and Apollo House has had and undo the message that something can be done.
“That collective action can be taken to tackle the housing crisis because collective action, including mass civil disobedience, including mass protest including the organisation of a massive campaign across the country like we saw in Spain in the question of evictions, that can make a difference.
“That’s what can stop evictions happening in this country, that’s what we can force.
“The use of public resources like NAMA to provide public housing and that can win for people the right to a home.”