Evictions: Round two of the battle against the banks and the government begins
17 August 2020
Nine tenants have been evicted in Berkeley Road Dublin by masked men garbed in black who seized and boarded up the property on Wednesday 12th August. The tenants had not received an eviction notice to vacate the home.
One tenant said:“This is our home, in the middle of the pandemic you threw us on the road ... I lived in this home nearly nine years, within seconds I am homeless now,” she said.
The landlord, Gerry Ward, said he has been involved in a legal dispute with Beltany Property Finance,he claimed he had not been aware of the property’s repossession until he was contacted by the tenants.A spokesman for Goldman Sachs, which controls Beltany, said the fund sold the property on June2nd.
As tenants were physically removed from the property, a number of Gardaí watched on from the street outside the front door. They had been called by the tenants but took no action, claiming that their rolewas to ensure no breach of the peace took place. A garda told one tenant; “I’ve told you already, it’s not my responsibility if you’re homeless” and “you have no right any more to be here”. As most of those evicted were migrants, the racism of the remark is obvious.
The Garda claimed that the landlord had documentation authorising eviction, but it later turned outthat an agent had simply presented at a Garda station and announced their intention to evict.
When Housing activists turned up to support the tenants two Garda riot squad units were sent to the scene, although they were not deployed. Subsequently housing activists occupied the premises and rehoused the tenants. When they re entered the building they discovered substantial damage to roomsand fittings meant to make the premises uninhabitable.
The Government recently lifted a blanket ban on rental evictions during the coronavirus pandemic,and limited the protection to renters who had lost income as a result of Covid-19. In any case the ban had only been partially enforced, with landlords demanding that tenants in multiple occupation paythe rent of those who had left because of the virus.
The Garda involvement in the eviction has provoked public anger and a flurry of attempts to deflect blame, with Policing Authority head Bob Collins suggesting a failure to learn lessons and a need for a review.
Yet this is the standard role of the police. Their role in evictions is to support landlords. Any form of protest is viewed as a breach of public order. The state enables evictions while claiming to be a spectator. This is round two of an ongoing attack on working people. Workers rights are largely non-existent while property rights are absolute.
Housing, along with health services, brought about the collapse of the last government. The election saw a sharp fall in support for the traditional parties and a long struggle to form a national government of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, supported by the Green party and excluding Sinn Fein, the highest polling party. Now we see that the ruling class have learnt nothing. The coronavirus pause has ended, the rental of a public health service from the private sector is being discontinued, the homeless are being eased out of hotel rooms and back into emergency housing, with a return of evictions.
We are back to round two of an ongoing battle. Swift action by housing activists is an absolutely essential component of a new fightback, but we are massively outnumbered. We should call for Garda withdrawal from eviction duties. Rather than enforcing eviction, the state should be guaranteeing the right to a home. The government should stand down. One of the main elements of the programme for government was a new turbocharged housing policy. We now see yet another scam to support speculators and vulture funds.
The Greens should be forced out of government. Their housing policy, (public housing on public land) was easily the most radical of the election manifestos, but was dropped within seconds of negotiations opening with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
This is no time for verbal posturing. Sinn Fein owe a lot of their new support to promises to resolve the housing crisis. The onus is on them to take the lead on the streets and to build a democratic action campaign. A similar argument applies to the Trade Union leaderships.
The "Raise the Roof"campaign led by the Unions held a major demonstration in October 2018 to pressure the government on its upcoming housing budget. As far as street protest goes they have been missing in action. In today's Ireland property is king and the workers count for nothing. After decades of theft and extortion its time we showed this government the door.