David Murphy/Darby Savage
Thank you for joining me for your weekly edition of Housing Crisis Update where we read the news, so you don’t have to. For the podcast version, click here.
Not on the nod
The Irish Times on Friday said local authority tenants do not understand where they are placed on the housing authority waiting list with one Oireachtas member quoted as saying that tenants were told “something different three times in one week”.
A report carried out by the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government found the social housing waiting list lacked transparency and consistency.
According to the report “assumptions of political patronage have led to misunderstandings about how the system actually operates”.
It went on to recommend that the definition of homelessness be expanded to include those who are “sofa-surfing” or engaged in “involuntary sharing”.
The number of households that qualify for social housing has expanded to nearly 72,000.
Kids: 19 | Pay rise: 158
Over at the Dáil just 19 TDs attended a debate on child homelessness, with one member of the lower house leaving in tears.
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy was one of the three Fine Gael members in attendance, while Fianna Fáil had six and Sinn Féin three, and a number of independents with Jan O’Sullivan as Labour’s solo representative.
During the debate Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster became emotional as she related the story of a young homeless man she and her daughter had passed on O’Connell Street last week, going on to accuse the Housing Minister of inflicting misery.
Speaking during the debate the Minister said every rough sleeper would have a bed this Christmas.
On Saturday the St Vincent de Paul revealed that parents are going without food so they can pay money lenders to cover Christmas presents, with about 350,000 using regulated moneylenders; one of the most well-known companies charges an interest rate of 187%.
In an interview with Joyce Fegan at Breaking News, the St Vincent de Paul national director said the leading cause of this poverty and financial pressure came from the housing crisis, saying “rents were soaking up incomes.”
Jaune est le nouveau noir
Hundreds of housing activists in yellow vests gathered outside The Custom House in Dublin before marching to Leinster House in solidarity with the French yellow vest demonstrations. The group stopped outside a number of banks along the route and called for an end to evictions.
One of the group members told Dublin Live they intend to hold another protest next Saturday to highlight Ireland's ongoing housing crisis saying, they were “going rattle the system to the core”.
The group included pro-Palestinian organisations, socialist republicans and others concerned about the use of fluoride in the public water supply.
Mixed class struggle
At the more genteel environs of the Indo on Sunday, Gene Kerrigan rails at the Government’s preference for small "mixed class” estates, as opposed to large developments like Cabra West or Ballyfermot. He says the policy is based on a “staggering class bias” and that “in previous times … politicians abandoned pet theories and did what worked.”
On Monday RTÉ News showed an interview with 16-year-old Lauren Hogan, a transition-year student living in a family hub who became homeless in the summer of 2017. The heartfelt video by Eleanor Mannion has been making a big impact online, prominently featuring in posts concerning the #MyNameIs campaign to end child homelessness.
RTÉ says the teen, her younger brother and mother spent last Christmas in a hotel. Earlier this year, they moved into a family hub.
Family hubs are group homes for homeless families first announced by Government early in 2017. Some family hubs are in unusual settings, such as a former Bargaintown warehouse in Coolock.
An abuse of statistics
At the Irish Times Fintan O’Toole is receiving plaudits for a powerful piece about child homelessness, saying while “one homeless child is a tragedy; four thousand is a policy.” O’Toole writes, “while we are worshipping an image of a homeless child, almost 4,000 children in Ireland will wake up on Christmas morning in places that are not homes … a point beyond which no civilised society could go.”
On Wednesday Laoise Neylon at Dublin Inquirer revealed that the founder of homeless and rehab charity Tiglin Challenge has been running a short-term-lets business through AirBnB. The extraordinary story of Aubrey McCarthy and his business partner Darius Kazakevicius reveals his connection to 14 properties on the platform, some of which were listed at the same Dublin apartment complex as his charity’s registered address and likely in breach of planning law.
The listings had been taken down by Tuesday night.
The biggest story of the week came from Roscommon and rocked the country as Gardaí continue to investigate an incident of “criminal damage and assault” prompted by a forceful eviction at a farm near Strokestown.
The property was repossessed last week over unpaid debts to KBC bank. The bank had instructed a security firm based in Northern Ireland to forcibly remove two elderly brothers and their sister, along with the people who had turned up to support them. At least one family member suffered injuries, with a number of gardaí present on the scene at the time.
On Sunday in excess of 70 people stormed the farm in the early hours of the morning; eight people were injured and four vehicles were set alight, with a dog also injured and put down at the scene.
The McGann family during the week condemned "all forms of violence" and said they wanted to see the rule of law upheld, calling the events "deeply distressing”.
In a statement published by the Longford Leader and made through former neighbour and Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy the family criticised An Taoiseach for his comments in the Dáil on Tuesday, describing them as "a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from … the very serious issues relating to [their] eviction".
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, An Taoiseach had queried what he regarded as Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty’s reticence to condemn the attack on the security personnel, saying ”it doesn't take long for your balaclava to slip.”
During that session Strokestown-based Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy appealed for calm saying “we have to condemn all violence … but [that] this started with the eviction.” Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan tried to point out the difference between a security firm with a court order and a vigilante group, but was warned by Sinn Fein TDs “that’s just the start of it”. They went on to call for legislation that “protects the people not the banks”.
The reverberations since the incident continue with Independent TD Mattie McGrath seeking a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and KBC Bank bosses saying that the issue of “land and evictions in Ireland [was] too emotive."
The Tipperary politician made the comments yesterday during what he described as an "occupation" of a KBC branch in Dublin's city centre alongside Offaly Independent TD Carol Nolan.
In reporting later in the week, one of the security personnel was revealed to be 49-year-old debt collector Ian Gordon, a former British soldier. According to reporting by the Irish Mirror, he had contacted his former colleagues a month before urging them to travel to the Republic with a 'name your price' offer. A former colleague said “he thinks he’s Rambo” calling him a “joke”.
Writing for the Examiner’s Reader’ Blog, James Woods describes Strokestown as the most shameful incident since Black Jack Adair’s scourge of evicting tenants from his acquired lands on Donegal’s Derryveigh estate in April 1861.
In a series of video diaries on Facebook, Athlone Community Radio volunteer Anna Kavanagh reported on the events from Strokestown as they happened. Her videos have attracted nearly a million views so far.
The family have since been readmitted to their home, and Anna was there to greet them. She said that some of the rumours on social media - such as men standing outside the house armed with baseball bats - were “absolute nonsense and tripe”.
And that’s your Housing Crisis Update for this week, we’ll be taking a break next week for Christmas to come back fresh for the New Year; until then have a pleasant break and see you in 2019.