A judge has ruled that an emergency hostel for the homeless in the Liberties in Dublin can be open until the legal row over the use of the facility has been determined.
The opening of the temporary hostel in the converted Carman's Hall, which had been used as community centre until it shut in 2013, in Francis Street has been halted due to a legal challenge by the Carman's Hall Interest Group, the Michael Mallin House Residents and a youth and community worker, Elizabeth O'Connor.
The residents want the facility reopened as a community centre and have secured permission for judicial review of the Council's decision allowing the centre be used as a hostel to deal with the homeless emergency.
The court's permission for judicial review proceedings also acted as a stay on the hostel opening.
Because of the current homeless situation Dublin City Council, which opposes the resident's challenge, asked the court for the stay to be lifted pending the outcome of the full hearing.
Lawyers for the residents argued the stay should remain in place.
In his ruling Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said he was satisfied the balance of justice lay in lifting the stay preventing the facility from being used as an emergency hostel until the full dispute has been determined.
The judge said when considering the application he had to take factors into account such as the residents inconvenience and the needs of one of "a very vulnerable section of society" particular during the winter months.
The judge said he noted the residents concerns.
However evidence was given to the court about the homeless crisis that the number deemed homeless in Dublin city, has increased from 3,700 to 5,000 in the period between September 2015 and September 2016.
While the number of rough sleepers in the city fluctuates evidence had been given that emergency hostel facilities are currently at capacity, the judge said.
The Carman's Hall facility the judge said is to be run by groups that considerable expertise in working with the homeless.
In the circumstances the court was satisfied to lift the stay.
The judge, noting the urgency of the matter, had previously listed the full hearing of the case for 18 January.
The residents he said have challenged council's decision of 24 October allowing for a change of use of Carman's Hall to a hostel.
As part of their challenge the residents, and their expert, say that going ahead with the hostel without going through the public consultation process amounted to a material contravention of the city development plan, the judge said.
He said the council, and their expert, disputes that claim and maintains it was entitled under the planning laws to allow the centre be converted into a hostel for the homeless.
This argument clearly was a "complex question of law," the judge said.
However the judge said that at this stage the court was not deciding on the merits of either sides arguments which would be matters to be determined at the full hearing of the case.
Declan McGrath SC, with Niall Handy BL, for the residents, said their concern is about an "undue concentration" of homeless and social support services in the south inner city.
There are 12 homeless and social support services within 500m of Carman's Hall and more than 660 people deemed homeless are being accommodated in Dublin 8, compared to 78 in Dublin 4 and "none whatsoever" in Dublin 6W, he said.
James Connolly SC, with Stephen Dodd BL, for the Council, argued the stay should be lifted due to the number of vulnerable rough sleepers on the streets at this time of year.
The Council has already spent about €930,000 converting the building into a hostel after acquiring it under a five-year lease from its owners the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, he said.
Dublin City Council had not committed to using the premises as a hostel beyond the 2017-18 winter period.
The 65-bed Carman's Hall facility was one of four in the city being set up to help address homelessness and was offered by the local parish priest to help with the homeless emergency, counsel said.
A survey carried out on 22-23 November found 142 rough sleepers in Dublin but that situation was fluid and facilities for the homeless are currently full up with people being turned away, the court heard.