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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 23 November, 2014

I stopped the sheriff: Activists prevent eviction of man from Laois home

Independent TD Joan Collins was among a group of activists that stopped the attempted eviction of a man from his home in Laois yesterday.

Ben Gilroy, from Freedom From All Debt, and Pat Dunne, the deputy sheriff, argue outside the home in Laois.
Ben Gilroy, from Freedom From All Debt, and Pat Dunne, the deputy sheriff, argue outside the home in Laois.
Image: Screengrab via YouTube.

A GROUP OF housing activists and an independent TD prevented an attempted eviction of a man from his home in Laois yesterday.

A collection of housing groups and the People Before Profit TD Joan Collins were in Mountrath to prevent the deputy sheriff, accompanied by the gardaí, from evicting a man from his home, arguing that their actions were not constitutional.

It was the first such case of People Before Profit, Freedom From All Debt, the Defend Our Homes League, Its Not Our Debt and the Anti-Eviction Task Force coming together to defend a home from repossession.

Collins told TheJournal.ie that it won’t be the last: “The main aim is that there will be no evictions or repossessions of family homes in Ireland.”

Lee Wellstead, 47, was facing eviction from his home having lost in his battle against Ulster Bank in the Commercial Court, the Laois Nationalist explains.

He had bought the three-bedroom property on four acres of land in Knockanina - near Mountrath and Castletown - in 2003 for €80,000 and then acquired a top loan on the mortgage of €30,000. Having failed to keep up with repayments, the bank pursued him and was granted a repossession order last year, the paper reports.

Collins said she heard about Wellstead’s story and travelled to Laois with the other groups to help him defend his home.

In the video entitled ‘Constitution Halts Sheriff’ Ben Gilroy from Freedom from All Debt argues with the deputy sheriff, Pat Dunne, that it is unconstitutional for him to attempt to evict Wellstead from his home.

After a lengthy argument the sheriff and the accompanying garda officers depart:


YouTube: freedomfromalldebt

“We’re trying to work on two fronts,” Collins told TheJournal.ie “We’re defending people from evictions but we’re also going to put our own bill through the Dáil in relation to homeowners and to help them when they are in distress with their mortgage.”

The story was first flagged by Politics.ie and has been written about by the NAMA Wine Lake blog today. It notes that some 600 properties are repossessed each year according to the latest figures from the Central Bank.

Collins said they hoped yesterday’s successful blocking of the eviction can raise awareness of their campaign: “What he wanted to do is highlight that people will stand with these people facing eviction if people ask us to do it.

“Some people are particularly ashamed of letting people know what they’re going through. They are fearful that they are in debt and people knowing about it. We’re trying to get the word out so people can know that we will stand with them if they are evicted.”

Collins said that in Wellstead’s case, the sheriff will now have to seek another order for eviction and added: “We’ll be back down again if he does do that.”

“These banks gave out these loans in full knowledge that people were strapped and now they’re saying we’re going to take them back and they’ll be forced into social housing. But there’s no room on the social housing list for these people to be accommodated,” she added.

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