With the housing crisis in Ireland soaring, various activist groups marched and demonstrated as part of the ‘Raise the Roof Campaign’ on October 3, in support of a private bill in Dail (lower house of Irish Parliament) to address the ongoing issue. Students from various colleges and universities also observed a nationwide lockout and participated in the protests. The call for protest was given by various organisations including the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Housing and Homeless Coalition, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), etc.
Dublin has become a stage for a series of protests by the city dwellers demanding affordable housing as the crisis aggravates in Dublin and other cities in the Irish Republic. September 23, Saturday, was observed as the national day of action and protests rocked the city where the protestors blocked the O’Connell Bridge in the city. It was organised by the Take Back the City Movement and they had an hour-long sit-in, where they shouted slogans against housing minister Eoghan Murphy from the right wing conservative FineGael Party, who the protesters call as “incapable to tackle the crisis”.
Opposition Moves Non-confidence Vote
On September 24, Monday, Dublin City Council had passed a motion requesting the government to declare a housing emergency and earmarking of extra funds worth 2.3 billion Euros in the forthcoming budget. The council also requested the government to make legislation to stop forceful evictions and to conduct a referendum to include the ‘Right to Public Housing’ in the Constitution. Meanwhile, the left-leaning opposition party Sinn Fein had moved a non-confidence vote in Dail on September 25, Tuesday, against Eoghan Murphy for poor handling of the crisis which made 10000 people homeless including 4000 children. Eoghan Murphy had survived with the support of 59 votes against 49. The centre-right Fianna Fail Party abstained from the voting.
The Dublin District committee of Communist Party of Ireland had accused that Fianna Fail had abstained from voting as their economic policy of subsidies for landlords and speculators is same as of the disastrous housing policy of the ruling Fine Gael. Communist Party and its Connolly Youth wing were active in the Take Back the City movement and demanded universally accessible public housing service for all citizens.
More than 100% Spike in Homelessness
Dublin and several other cities are facing an unprecedented housing crisis characterised by flat-lining of property prices, rise in house rents, forceful evictions, etc. Even the new scheme launched by the Land Development Authority (LDA) was widely criticised as the lowest price for the ‘affordable’ houses constructed by the authority will amount up to some 320,000 Euros in Dublin and 250,000 Euros in other cities which is far beyond the reach of majority of the city dwelling working class in the Irish cities. Various groups had argued with the government authorities to revise the prices of the affordable homes based on family’s income and payment capacity. Earlier, the Take Back the City movement had also organised nationwide rallies demanding housing and random occupation of vacant buildings in the cities.
According to Focus Ireland (a voluntary organisation in Ireland catering to the homeless people), the current spike in homelessness is caused by structural economic factors including low wages, underemployment & unemployment, lack of government initiatives for public housing, etc. According to the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), in Ireland, there was 145% increase in the number of homeless people (286% in the number of homeless families and 276% in the number of homeless children) between November 2014 and November 2017.
In the European Pillar of Social Rights proclaimed by European Commision on November 17, 2017, the 19th principle is exclusively dedicated to Right to Housing and Assistance to the Homeless. It includes “(1) Access to social housing or housing assistance of good quality shall be provided for those in need. (2) Vulnerable people have the right to appropriate assistance and protection against forced eviction. (3) Adequate shelter and services shall be provided to the homeless in order to promote their social inclusion”.