vacant properties

Housing activists hosting national day of action today ... here's how we got to this point

Take Back the City activists have occupied a number of properties in Dublin over the past two months.

0356 Housing_90553098 (1) Protestors who had occupied the building at 34 North Frederick Street Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

HOUSING ACTIVISTS WHO have been occupying vacant homes in Dublin’s north inner city for the past two months are today holding a national day of action to highlight Ireland’s housing crisis. 

Take Back The City, a group of activists built up of over 15 grassroots groups, have made headlines in recent weeks after occupying three properties in Dublin’s north inner city. 

They have since been left two properties but remain present in one, 41 Belvedere Place.

The occupations came to a head last week, on Tuesday 11 September, after six people were arrested following the eviction of the North Frederick Street property.

In statements to the media, the occupiers said their actions are designed to highlight the current housing crisis.

Today, the group has called for a national day of action, in which it’s looking for grassroots groups, housing activists and community groups nationwide to organise in their own areas. 

As the group is calling on the movement to spread further across the country today, let’s take a look back over the past number of weeks and examine how the group has evolved. 

So, when did Take Back The City first take action? 

Speaking to, Oisín Coulter of Take Back The City said that over the course of the summer, two housing forums took place, which brought together a range of different groups. 

“What really emerged was a really strong consensus from those two housing forums that we held that what was needed was direct action … because people had been talking for months and for years. At the end of the day, it wasn’t going anywhere and the government wasn’t taking it seriously,” Coulter said. 

Following the second housing forum, about seven initial groups came together and made the decision to launch an occupation as soon as possible. 

Take Back The City’s first move took place on 7 August, when activists initially occupied a property on Summerhill Parade.

5889 Housing protest_90551490 Housing activists outside 35 Summerhill Parade, Dublin Sam Boal Sam Boal

On 16 August, Justice Miriam O’Regan granted PJ O Donnell (as trustee of the Pat O Donnell & Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan) injunctions requiring persons unknown to vacate and cease trespassing at one of seven properties owned by the pension plan.

The properties are located at 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 Summerhill Parade, Ballybough, in Dublin 1.

The court heard that of those houses number 35 was the only property occupied.

The activists left the premises on 17 August after the High Court injunction was secured. 

Where did they go next? 

The same day, on 17 August, activists gathered outside the Summerhill Parade property and then moved on to occupy 34 North Frederick Street. 

Reading a statement to the crowd outside the property, a spokesperson for the occupants said that “the outpouring of support both locally and from further afield has given us hope for a strong, organised housing movement”.

“The government is not about to change this housing crisis – the people are. Summerhill was only the tip of the iceberg. We’re ready to keep going,” the spokesperson said.

008 Summerhill Eviction_90551635 Activists making their way from Summerhill Parade to North Frederick Street Sam Boal Sam Boal

On 28 August, the High Court ordered that all persons occupying the house must vacate it by 2pm the following day

Justice Michael Quinn granted Patricia Ní Greil, the owner of 34 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1, injunctions requiring persons unknown to vacate and cease trespassing and get out of the four-storey building.

The activists, however, vowed not to leave the property despite the court order. 

The third property

There wasn’t a huge amount of major advancement from the activist group until 8 September.

That evening, around 100 people gathered on O’Connell Street where they then marched to a property on Belvedere Court in the city, which Take Back The City activists subsequently occupied. 

Take Back the City activists protest Activists outside 41 Belvedere Place Sam Boal Sam Boal

The High Court has since granted orders requiring the protesters to end their occupation of 41 Belvedere Place.

Justice Richard Humphreys granted the owners of 41 Belvedere Place, Dublin 1 MJH Property Management an injunction compelling the protesters to immediately vacate and cease the unlawful trespass on the property.

Armed gardaí and balaclavas

The occupations came to a major head last week, on Tuesday 11 September.

Just before 7pm, men wearing balaclavas arrived at the property to remove the activists from the 34 North Frederick Street property. 

A spokesperson for TBTC said that a van without a registration plate at its front and a UK registration number at its rear pulled up outside 34 North Frederick Street with 15 to 20 men. 

The spokesperson noted that none of these men were wearing any identification to indicate the name of their employer. 

It is understood that the men in balaclavas who weren’t gardaí were hired as private contractors by the landlords, and that they were wearing balaclavas as previously they have been subject to intimidation and threats because of the nature of their work. 

It is also understood that the absence of a registration plate on the van was a security measure to ensure that identifying factors were not present on the vehicle. 

Shortly after the arrival of the men, three members of An Garda Siochána attended the scene. As a crowd gathered outside the building to protest the eviction, members of the garda public order unit were dispatched to the scene.

EVICTION _0812_90553786 Activists outside Store Street Garda Station after a number of people were arrested during the North Frederick Street eviction Sam Boal Sam Boal

The activist group has said that physical force was used against a number of attendees.  Six activists were arrested.

Two activists have been charged and are to appear in court on 2 October. Adult cautions were issued to two of the other activists while the last one was released without charge.

The security firm and gardaí have been heavily criticised over their attire during the eviction. 

In response to criticism of gardaí covering their faces, Commissioner Harris said on Thursday that “the form of dress used at the event was not correct”.

The following day, housing protestors blocked traffic at the junction of Parnell Street and O’Connell Street for around 45 minutes, during which a sit-down protest was staged and both sides of O’Connell Street were blocked to traffic. 

Take Back the City activists protest Activists engaging in a sit down protest beneath the Parnell Monument at the top of O'Connell Street Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

The protest later grew as it made its way to nearby 41 Belvedere Place, which has been occupied by activists since 8 September. 

So, what’s next for Take Back the City? 

As mentioned above, the activist group is today holding a national day of action. Take Back The City is holding an event at the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm, but other grassroots groups across the country have their own events planned today. 

“The housing crisis is an island wide problem. It affects different areas in different ways, but has similar causes and effects. This is why a strong supportive movement across the entire island is so important,” Take Back The City said on its Facebook page for the event. 

It’s time for the movement to grow. We’re calling on grassroots groups, housing activists, community groups nationwide to take action in their own areas.

The group said ”actions could be anything from pickets, info stalls, door knocking, protests, creative action to occupations”. 

Events have been planned in counties across the country, including Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo. 

When asked why Take Back The City made the decision for a national day of action, Coulter said: “We’ve always said that we believe in a diversity of tactics. Occupations are still very much on the table but it was never just about occupations. 

The goal was always, and we’ve always said since day one, to build a mass movement on the streets with grassroots groups, groups of all different kinds, representing all different areas. We feel that we’ve now sparked that movement. 

Earlier this week, Take Back The City held practical training sessions for tenants who may have to deal with illegal evictions. 

Looking forward, Coulter said that the activists want to be in a position in a few weeks where everybody knows who their local housing action campaign is. 

“We do plan on escalating. We plan on, as things go forward, continuing to take big, large-scale direct actions to force the issue and to ensure that our demands are heard and followed through on,” he said. 

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