Monday 19 November 2018

'Ireland is screwed, we need action now' - Hundreds march through Dublin in protest over housing crisis

  • Hundreds gather to protest removal of activists from vacant property
  • Five people were arrested for public order offences; two charged
  • Gardai say member of force assaulted and 'subjected to racist abuse'
  • Number of activists suffered injuries and had to be hospitalised
  • Gardai say they were only present to prevent a 'breach of the peace'
  • Activists receive legal notice to vacate property being occupied in Belvedere Place
Protesters now sitting down at the top of O’Connell Street Photo: Amy Molloy
Protesters now sitting down at the top of O’Connell Street Photo: Amy Molloy
Up to 200 people gathered for a rally to protest housing eviction in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin
Take Back the City has now occupied three properties in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin
Protesters both young and old gathered outside 34 North Frederick Street
Conor Reddy was admitted to the Mater hospital as he suffered head injuries and a concussion and inset, injuries sustained by another activist
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

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Dublin on Wednesday evening in a rally organised to protest against the removal of housing activists from a city centre property.

A number of men wearing balaclavas, understood to be working for a private security firm, forced their way into 34 North Frederick Street on Tuesday night.

Dozens of housing activists had been defying a High Court order to vacate the property for the past two weeks.

In response to their removal from the property, they took to the streets in a bid to highlight Ireland's ongoing housing crisis.

Buses, the Luas and all traffic came to a standstill in the city centre as protesters sat down on the intersection of O'Connell Street and Parnell Street yesterday evening.

Following a half an hour sit-in on Parnell Street, protesters began marching towards 41 Belvedere Place, which they have been occupying since Saturday.

Protesters both young and old gathered outside 34 North Frederick Street
Protesters both young and old gathered outside 34 North Frederick Street

The protest grew much larger as they made their way up Gardiner Street and through Mountjoy Square, with some estimating between 500-1000 people were present.

A solicitor's letter was sent on Wednesday advising activists to leave the 41 Belvedere Place before tomorrow, stating the property is not compliant with fire safety regulations and warning that legal action will be taken unless they vacate.

Protesters block the tramway at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters block the tramway at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Emily Tracey, Soso Kelly, Clara Tracey and Jeanne Castegnier-Mainville sing songs outside the formerly occupied property on North Fredrick Street during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
TD Richard Boyd Barrett outside the previously occupied building in North Frederick Street during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protester in the occupied building in Belvedere Place. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
Protesters stage a sit down on the Luas line at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin
A protester climbs the Parnell monument at Parnell Square during the Take Back the City Rally. Photo: Tony Gavin

Protesters are now staging a sit-in outside the building and are insisting "we will not be moved".

Pictures of the men wearing balaclavas were being held aloft by protesters as they shouted chants of "shame, shame, shame".

Up to 200 people gathered for a rally to protest housing eviction in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin
Up to 200 people gathered for a rally to protest housing eviction in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin

One of the protesters who was arrested and brought to Store Street Garda station on Tuesday night said he decided to join the 'Take Back the City' movement as he’s “sick of paying half my income in rent”.

“We will take on landlords and we will win,” he shouted to cheers from the crowd.

Take Back the City has now occupied three properties in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin
Take Back the City has now occupied three properties in Dublin city centre. Pic: Tony Gavin

People travelled from all over Dublin and beyond to take part in the protest.

A woman in her 60s, who asked not to be named, said she drove up from Kilkenny after seeing pictures of what happened at 34 Frederick Street on social media.

"I think it's just disgraceful and I agree with what these people are doing. Ireland is screwed and we need action now."

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

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.

"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.

"A small number of the crowd outside subsequently were arrested for a breach of the peace. One Garda was assaulted and subjected to racist comment."

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 High Court order to vacate was issued on 28 August and activists were to be out of the premises 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 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 Place.

A solicitor's letter was issued today on behalf of the company MJH Property Management Ltd, advising members of Take Back the City to leave the property by Thursday.

These occupations began with a property in Summerhill Parade in early August in response to the eviction of up to 120 tenants with only 48 hours notice.

The tenants, many of whom were foreign nationals, were told they had to leave the 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 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."

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