Saturday 25 May 2019

Raise the Roof taps into people power in bid to ease national emergency

Stock picture
Stock picture
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The Government's defeat in the Dáil on a motion calling for the housing crisis to be declared a national emergency is unlikely to have tangible consequences - but it is a powerful symbolic blow.

With thousands taking to the streets on a weekday afternoon protesting against homelessness and housing, the message couldn't have been clearer: people have had enough.

The cross-section who attended the Raise the Roof protest was a sign the effects of the housing crisis are uncontained; people from all walks of life are affected.

People power has enjoyed a resurgence in Ireland of late; feet on the street lead to a stunning U-turn on water charges and the recent repeal of the Eighth Amendment demonstrated its potential.

And now it's housing that has mobilised people feeling the pressure in a plethora of ways from those who are homeless, those who are at risk of it or those who can't afford to rent or buy.

The list is endless and the crisis multifaceted - nobody would suggest different.

The Government has tried to tread a careful line for months acknowledging that, yes, there is a crisis but urging people to take heed of their progress to date and their plans for more homes.

But what we have seen this week is that housing has become an election issue - campaigner Fr Peter McVerry suggested the slogan: "Vote homelessness out."

And with the Government's own caution on the fact that the crisis needs time to fix, it is likely that the momentum behind the Raise the Roof movement will only gather pace.

Another day of action is already being planned - this one is expected to be held on a Saturday. It will act as another litmus test on the national mood: those in Government Buildings will want to pay close attention.

Irish Independent

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