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Saturday 15 December 2018

British-registered van used by 'heavies' in Dublin eviction previously used by Greater Manchester Police

  • Five people arrested following eviction
  • Number of activists suffered injuries and had to be hospitalised
  • Gardai say they were only present to prevent a 'breach of the peace'
  • Rally organised for 5.30pm this evening in response to the eviction
  • Activists receive legal notice to vacate property being occupied in Belvedere Place
Conor Reddy was admitted to the Mater hospital as he suffered head injuries and a concussion and inset, injuries sustained by another activist
Conor Reddy was admitted to the Mater hospital as he suffered head injuries and a concussion and inset, injuries sustained by another activist
Protesters outside Store Street garda station and inset, injuries sustained by one of the activists
Activists subsequently stood outside the building to chant in protest at the eviction, before marching down O’Connell Street towards Store Street Garda station.
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A British-registered van used by a "group of heavies" who removed activists from a building was previously used by Greater Manchester Police, a spokesperson for the force confirmed.

When asked about how the vehicle came to be involved in a Dublin eviction, a garda spokesperson said:

"An Garda Síochána’s role at such events is to facilitate peaceful protest while protecting the rights of individuals to do their lawful work safely – in this case carrying out an order of the High Court.

"Our objective with any such operation is to ensure the safety of the public."

One of the activists had to be hospitalised last night
One of the activists had to be hospitalised last night

The white Mercedes Sprinter parked outside 34 North Frederick Street just before 7pm yesterday evening.

A number of men wearing balaclavas then forced their way into the property to remove activists who have been occupying it for the last two weeks, despite the High Court ordering them to vacate the premises.

Conor Reddy suffered a concussion and neck injuries
Conor Reddy suffered a concussion and neck injuries

According to a UK vehicle checking website, the van is listed as untaxed since August 2014.

"An Garda Síochána is satisfied that the vehicle in question is tax and insurance compliant," gardai said in a statement.

Earlier, gardai insisted that the removal of protesters from the building by men wearing balaclavas was "a peaceful eviction".

Activists who were defying a High Court order to vacate 34 North Frederick Street in Dublin city centre were forced out by a group of unidentifiable men.

Gardai have come under criticism as members of the public order unit - who also had their faces covered - stood in front of the building while the group carried out the eviction.

A garda spokesman said gardai's "only role in the proceedings was to prevent a breach of the peace", adding that the "eviction itself was peaceful."

Five activists were arrested for public order offences, with two due to appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice on October 2.

Gardai advised that members of the public order unit usually cover their faces.

Conor Reddy's medical reports
Conor Reddy's medical reports

"These are fire retardant hoods and are part of the safety equipment provided to members of the public order unit. Garda numbers identifying the gardaí are visible on their uniform," the statement said.

They did not respond to queries about who the men in balaclavas were working for.

Four people were later hospitalised following the incident, according to a statement released by Take Back the City, a network of 18 grassroots activist groups who are "working together to take direct action" against Ireland's housing crisis.

One man sustained injuries to his hand and had to be treated in the Mater Hospital.

"My experience last night was a microcosm of the deep-crisis now facing the state and the political establishment," Aindriú de Buitléir told Independent.ie.

"I was taken to a packed A&E in the Mater and told that due to the shortage of staff I would be waiting 13 hours to receive four stitches in my hand."

Gash to hand.jpg

Another man suffered a head injury and concussion.

The group of heavies arrived at 34 North Frederick Street at around 7pm yesterday evening in a van with no front number plate and a UK registration at the back.

Dozens of activists gathered outside the building to protest against the eviction. They then marched to Store Street garda station following the arrests of four men and a woman.

The activists were removed from the property at 34 North Frederick Street, as they had been defying a court order to remain in the building for a number of weeks.

The order was issued on 28 August, when the High Court ordered that all persons occupying the house vacate it by 2pm the following day.

Mr Justice Michael Quinn granted Patricia Ní Greil, the owner of 34 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1, injunctions requiring persons unknown to vacate and cease trespassing at the four-storey building.

In an affidavit posted on the door of the house, Mr Colm McGreal, the father of the owner, said they intend to transform the property into a guest house.

Mr McGreal has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Take Back the City has organised a rally to take place at 5.30pm this evening outside the property.

The group has now occupied three properties in Dublin city centre.

On Saturday, at least 100 people gathered on O'Connell Street in the city centre and marched towards a vacant property in Belvedere Court.

The property has now been occupied with banners and posters hanging from the windows.

A legal notice was today served on protesters, ordering them to vacate the property by 6pm tomorrow.

The notice was issued on behalf of the company MJH Property Management Ltd.

Activists also took over a property in Dublin’s Summerhill Parade in early August in response to the eviction of up to 120 tenants with only 48 hours notice.

They were told they had to leave a number of houses on Summerhill Parade in May for "fire safety reasons".

The properties are owned by Pat O'Donnell & Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan, the trustees of which are PJ O'Donnell and Peter McLornan, who were granted a High Court injunction to have the property vacated.

Activists then turned their attention to 34 Frederick St, which has no connection to the Summerhill properties.

Organisers of the protests say they want: "To continue to highlight the causes of this housing crisis, one of which is land hoarding and speculation by private owners."

A spokesperson for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has said its "demanding answers" from An Garda Siochana over the tactics used during the eviction.

"ICCL is calling for a swift public report from the Garda Commissioner regarding the Gardaí’s decision-making in advance of last night’s operation, and the reasons for and circumstances of the arrests and alleged injuries sustained by protesters," it said in a statement.

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