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Occupation of KBC Bank branch ends after talks about evictions 'settled'

Three TDs and a dozen members of the Land League had staged a protest in the Baggot Street branch of the bank since 2pm.

Image: grainne

Updated Dec 19th 2018, 7:50 PM

THREE TDS AND around a dozen members of the Land League occupied KBC Bank on Baggot Street, Dublin earlier today looking for assurances on how evictions are handled.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath Michael Collins and Carol Nolan accompanied members of the Land League to seek assurances from KBC Bank management.

After several hours of looking for a meaningful statement of intent from the Managing Director of KBC, it was announced that the protesters would continue the occupation overnight. It’s unclear whether TDs have also remained in the bank branch.

This evening, the Land League said that there had been an agreement between KBC Bank and the protesters, which included an assurance to set up a restructuring process for people who can start paying back again. 

“We are taking this drastic action to highlight the appalling treatment that customers in distress are receiving at the hands of KBC Bank,” McGrath said earlier.

Many of the customers we are dealing with really feel like they are being driven to the brink in terms of the aggressive and relentless debt collection strategies being employed.

Some protesters were at the same branch of the bank a year ago asking for evictions to end. They said assurances were given but weren’t followed up on afterwards.

“We were here a year ago,” John Martin from Dublin, told TheJournal.ie, “and they promised us that evictions wouldn’t happen, that they would sit down with every client, and try to be human to them, and work it out. That hasn’t happened.”

The protest was also partly triggered by an eviction in Roscommon over the weekend, where three members of a family were removed from their home. On Saturday, a number of vehicles were set alight and three of those attacked required hospital treatment; a dog was also seriously injured and had to be put down as a result.

“We can all have a difference of an opinion,” Margaret Hanrahan from Tipperary said.

“It’s how they handled people, these people were in their 60s. It’s how you physically handle somebody, you don’t just take out three people in their 60s and throw them outside the door.”

The protesters at Baggot Street agreed with the families at the centre of the Roscommon evictions that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s response has been “disappointing”.

Varadkar drew attention to himself yesterday when he told Pearse Doherty that “when it comes to law and order” and the Sinn Féin party, “it doesn’t take very long for your balaclava to slip.” The exchange was made in the Dáil as Doherty questioned the Taoiseach’s response to evictions.

Jerry Beades, the leader of the New Land League said that Leo Varadkar’s comments showed that he was “totally disconnected from what his government is doing”.

“A Fine Gael man said to me he just cost him seats in Roscommon.”

It’s understood that there are plans for similar occupation actions elsewhere.

Earlier today, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that the courts have an independent function to carry out, and that he couldn’t interfere with that.

He added that “it should be emphasised that there is a very clear difference between persons or companies employed to execute Court Orders and vigilante groups carrying out acts of organised and serious violence, as occurred on Sunday”.

He condemned “in the strongest terms” the violence that occurred at Falsk, Co Roscommon on Sunday, and said a Garda investigation is underway.

“It is important that the Garda investigation can take its course and I note that arrests have already been made in relation to this matter,” he added.

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