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Raise the Roof in Cork

New mobilisation or walk in the park?

J North

28 June 2023

SIPTU Demonstrators at Connolly Hall in Cork City.

On June 10th 2023, hundreds of people took to the streets of Cork City calling for immediate action from the Government to address the housing crisis. A limited eviction ban supposed to protect tenants was terminated by the government at the end of March. Protests by housing and political groups were ineffective. Most protest was focused on the Dáil and was easily seen off.

So, was the Cork demo a revival of the movement or what trade unionists call "a walk in the park", essentially virtue signalling that their hearts are still in the right place?

All the evidence is for a walk in the park. Raise the Roof is organised by ICTU and supported by all the non-government parties. A mobilisation by these forces would involve tens of thousands of demonstrators, not hundreds. All the unions would have been in attendance rather than local representatives of SIPTU and FORSA, backed up by PbP and housing charities

The weakness in organisation is reflected in the political weakness of the Raise the Roof policy. It is based on affordable housing that never arrives. There is no call for public housing, leaving everyone at the mercy of the developers and the market. There is a call for an end to no-fault evictions, but an eviction free-for-all is now the order of the day without any substantial union protest.

Final evidence for a walk in the park strategy comes from the career of Patricia King. The former secretary of ICTU has stepped down and joined the government's housing commission. Despite all the blather ICTU have signed up to the coalition's Housing for All strategy.

The protests have been handed over to trades councils, NGOs and PbP. This disguises the fact that ICTU have left the field and suppresses left criticism of them.

So, if there is no general mobilisation what is the strategy?

SIPTU TEAC Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, speaking at the demonstration, explained.

“That is why I believe the message we must take from our years of marching is one thing: we need political change. We need radical political change. We need, for the first time in the history of our state, a left-wing government.”
So, the radical strategy is a "left" government led by Sinn Féin, a party with no recent history of opposing capitalist interests. The Cork demonstrators condemned increasing racism towards migrants,  but it is quite clear that the right are taking advantage of the housing catastrophe and the core strategy of the housing campaigners depends on the next general election - an election likely to disappoint.

A housing policy based on meeting the needs of private capital will not meet the requirements of the working class. The central demand must be public housing and tenants’ rights. The method must be mobilisation on the streets. This is a difficult task, but we will not be able to advance if we stay within the confines of union partnership and electoral manoeuvres.

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