Eviction Ban Lifted
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
27 March 2023
Protest against the end of the eviction ban (Photo: G.O.L.)
The southern government served notice that it would lift the eviction ban at the end of March. The ban was originally introduced to avoid an increase in homelessness over the winter period from November to March. At the time Micheál Martin said it was about getting a balance right and keeping a roof over those at risk of homelessness.(1)
Since then, little has changed. There are still huge numbers of people at risk of homelessness, more than when the ban was introduced and the ban was introduced to put a hold on the rising number of evictions in the south. In January 2023, the number of people accessing emergency accommodation was 8,323 adults and 3,431 children according to the government’s own figures, with almost half of the total under the age of 24. These figures do not include the homeless i.e. those sleeping on the streets, people who are couch surfing, in prison.(2)
During the period in which the ban was in place, no measures of any significance were taken by the state to ease the housing crisis or offer security to tenants. Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where tenants have no rights at all. In many countries people cannot be easily evicted. They have a security of tenure, likewise the rent can only be increased by the rate of inflation and repairs and maintenance must be carried out, with tenants sometimes having the option of hiring people to carry out repairs and discount the cost from the rent, in the case of the landlord not expediting repairs. But in the landlord’s paradise that is the south of Ireland, none of this applies.
The government weren’t the only ones to be caught sitting on their laurels though. When the ending of the ban was announced there was a flurry of activity from what loosely describes itself as the parliamentary left and also from Sinn Féin. There has been some shift in their positions or at least in the language used by them in relation to the housing crisis. Richard Boyd Barrett had pointed out on RTE that there was a need to stop relying on the private sector and even Sinn Féin have made some noises in that direction. However, the response from all has been a little lacklustre.
The response has been entirely parliamentary, trying to get a non-binding resolution passed by the Dáil. The motion was predictably defeated and by a substantial margin. Now we have another motion of no confidence in the government, which will also be defeated. So, whilst the move towards talking about greater numbers of houses is welcome, it is all within the confines of the Dáil and also does not represent a break with Landlordism. PbP & Sinn Féin called for a picket on the Dáil on the day the Eviction Ban motion was being discussed. It was poorly attended. There were about 50 people at it, and most were politicians and their staff as well as some functionaries from groups working on the issue, such as Focus Ireland. One of the banners read (Real) Affordable Housing Now! What that means is anyone’s guess. On a T.D’s salary, even very large houses in middle class areas are affordable. What is needed is Universal Public Housing, along with a Tenants Charter, a cap on rents and mortgages and price controls. Calls for the state delivery of affordable housing and rentals is actually an advance on their general position up to now, but does not go far enough.
The call made by Paul Murphy T.D. to hit the streets to protest at politicians in what is described as copying the Water Rates Campaign,(3) is little more than an attempt to curry favour with voters, increase his profile and thus ensure that he is re-elected. It is not real, though he claims that he was elected on the basis of a mass civil disobedience campaign.(4) There are of course real actions that could be taken, such as committees in every area to oppose evictions. Opposing evictions means breaking the law, blocking the street, preventing access to the houses and of course standing up to the UVF thugs that have been regularly hired by landlords to carry out evictions. In such evictions in the past the Gardaí have only intervened when the UVF thugs were confronted and they did so in order to protect the thugs and ensure the evictions go ahead. This should also go hand in hand with occupations of buildings, occupations that don’t back down like the Apollo House Occupation because the high court says they should.
However, they are not proposing any of that. In the last big wave of evictions, some people did organise against evictions, they were not supported by the “left” or the trade unions either. And when one paramilitary group went after the thugs who were providing “security” for a bank repossession, they all joined in the howls condemning the behaviour.
Landlordism has failed, it is time to do away with it and only Universal Public Housing is going to be able to do that. It is not a time for parliamentary niceties nor virtue signalling but a campaign of disobedience and this also requires a break with the union bureaucracy which has gone along with the government’s plans.
(1) Irish Examiner (18/10/2022) Cabinet approves one-off eviction ban from November to March. Ciara Phelan https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/politics/arid-40986191.html
(2) See Peter McVerry Trust https://pmvtrust.ie/news/facts-and-figures/