— Glenn Fitzpatrick (@glennthefitz) January 5, 2019
Earlier: Modern Living
Previously: “I’m Aware Of The Fact We’re Above 10,0000”
D’Olier Street, Dublin
Protestors from Take Back the City, outside the offices of the Residential Tenancies Board at O’Connell Bridge House, which they occupied today while issuing demands for the housing crisis to be addressed.
More to follow.
High Street, Christchurch, Dublin 8.
Take Back thew City protestors occupy the headquarters of homeless charity Focus Ireland.
More to follow.
At the Dublin office of Airbnb at the weekend
Members of the Take Back The City action group took advantage of the Open House Dublin architectural festival – when the offices of Airbnb on Hanover Quay were open to the public – and occupied them for about two hours.
The group explained:
“As of August 2018 there were 3,165 entire properties for rent on AirBnb in Dublin, compared to 1,329 properties available for longterm rent on Daft.ie.
“This is at a time when there are over 1,350 families homeless in the greater Dublin region alone.
“In 2015, Airbnb lobbied the Irish Government to ensure profits made through Airbnb got a substantial tax break.
“In 2017, there was a 63% increase in Airbnb usage across Ireland. During the same time period, homelessness in Ireland increased by 2,000 people.
“Our tenant support groups frequently hear from people who have been evicted on grounds of “significant renovations”, only to find their old homes subsequently rented out on Airbnb and other short-term letting platforms
“Airbnb appears to have rapidly colonised vast amounts of our city, locking people out of homes.
“The budget will accelerate this process, as it incentivises landlords to buy for let only and, as we all know, Airbnb gives you a much higher yield per property than just renting to long-term residents.
“Airbnb have exacerbated the housing crisis in Dublin and Ireland as a whole. A platform that markets convenience by “disruption” has delivered nothing but chaos to the people of our city.
“They have no place in our city – the city should serve the needs of all its people, not the needs of tech, finance and the tourism industry. Today was another strong showing of people power and civil disobedience – the only two tactics that can drive a solution to this crisis.
Take Back the City Demands:
1. All vacant land and property be taken by compulsory purchase order and put to social use as universal public housing.
2. All vacant land and property across the country be taken into public ownership and put to public and community use.
3. Tenant Security and Fair Rent: Ban all evictions, reduce and cap rent at 20% of the occupants income or at €300 per room per month.
“In addition to our original demands we are calling for:
“A total ban on whole properties being offered on Airbnb and similar short-term letting platforms in the city; regulation has failed in other cities, we need only to look at Amsterdam or Berlin to realise this.
“A total ban is the only way of reversing the effect of short-term letting on our crisis.”
Previously: More Airbnbs Than Rental Units (January 2017)
From top: A sit-in on O’Connell Bridge in Dublin city during the Take Back The City national day of action on Saturday; RTÉ’s Audrey Carville; Paddy Cosgrave
On RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.
Audrey Carville spoke to co-founder of the Web Summit Paddy Cosgrave in light of the Take Back The City protests which took place across Ireland on Saturday.
Mr Cosgrave was critical of Fine Gael for castigating the protesters as “criminals” while seemingly never speaking out about Irish farmers who’ve occupied farms to prevent them from being compulsorily purchased to provide factories or offices for foreign companies.
He was also critical of RTÉ’s coverage of the matter.
Audrey Carville: “Large crowds of people protested across the country on Saturday over the housing crisis. It was organised by the Take Back The City group as part of a national day of action over the shortage of housing. Rallies were also held in Sligo, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Derry, Belfast, Drogheda, Maynooth, Bray and in Wexford.
“Speeches called for an end to evictions, increased provision of social housing and affordable rents. Well with us in studio this morning, one man who was at the Dublin city protest on Saturday, entrepreneur, co-founder and chief executive of the Web Summit Paddy Cosgrave. You’re welcome and good morning.”
“Will you tell us why you were there?”
Paddy Cosgrave: “I think one of the motivating factors was captured by the lead story on the front page of the Sunday Business Post yesterday which is this crisis is not just one affecting society, it’s having a very negative impact on the economy at large. And it’s impacting small businesses, that’s very obvious but perhaps what’s not so obvious is that multi-nationals are also being impacted and dramatically so, to the point that they’re prepared to raise this issue consistently over the last year with ministers of this country.
“On the march, I met, I walked with somebody who worked with Google, others from Indeed, Facebook, LinkedIn, and I think that Fine Gael may have underestimated what type, the nature of this crisis.”
Carville: “The Government has said protests don’t build houses and they question their impact. They’ve also said previously that homelessness here is no worse than anywhere else.”
Cosgrave: “Well I grew up on a farm. And when my next-door neighbour occupied a building that was in use in Dublin last summer for seven full days with the IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association] grain committee – that was the Department of Agriculture. It wasn’t stormed by heavy police officers, dressed in riot gear. They were left, peacefully there, to protest for seven days. Fine Gael never came out and spoke out against members of the IFA, farmers in this country as “criminals”, as “disgraceful”, words used by ministers over the last week. And I think that should tell you something about Fine Gael.
“Fine Gael have essentially decided that they think the protesters in the city are of working class background, that they’re from poor, disadvantaged areas and, as a consequence, they’ll kind of castigate them as criminals. But when farmers do it, when farmers occupy farms – all over this country, which they’ve been doing for years now – there’s not a word out of Fine Gael.”
“And I think that should tell you something about the operating basis of Fine Gael as a party in modern Ireland.”
Carville: “In relation to Fine Gael, they’re the main party in Government, it’s their job to put together a policy which will deliver housing for people here and they say they’re doing that, they tell us about the figures of house completions, they tell us about the money being invested. They’ve announced this Land Development Agency which they believe will be a big factor in solving this. You’re not convinced?”
Cosgrave: “Well I think if you want to understand Fine Gael’s priorities, you should look at the first act of business of this year, 2018. Heather Humphreys proposed a bill, called the Industrial Development Bill that, you know, there are people that desperately need places to live but the Government decided that the number one priority was to grant extraordinary powers to the IDA to compulsorily purchase farms around this country that foreign companies had identified as areas that they would like to build – factories or offices. That’s contained in the Industrial Development bill 2018, that was the first act of Fine Gael.
“And they prioritised that legislation in the interest of foreign companies to compulsory purchase farmers’ land in this country. It had to do with the case of Thomas Reid – a farmer, very close to the Leixlip plant, or Intel’s Leixlip plant. And I think, again, that’s very, very revealing. There’s land all over this country that can be compulsorily purchased for houses but that hasn’t been a priority for this Government.”
Carville: “But have you raised this with Leo Varadkar. He was a speaker at your MoneyConf conference this year.”
Cosgrave: “Have I raised it? I think thousands, tens of thousands of people have been raising it, the Central Bank has…”
Carville: “No, but have you raised it?”
Cosgrave: “…been raising it. The European Commission has been raising it…”
Carville: “Yeah but you’re here…”
Cosgrave: “The Economist…”
Carville: “Have you raised it?”
Cosgrave: “…has been raising it. Have I raised it? Yes, I took part in a protest on Saturday.”
Carville: “I know that. But you had personal access to Leo Varadkar – he was one of your keynote speakers at your MoneyConf event this year. Did you have a meeting with him…”
Cosgrave: “Absolutely. Have I tweeted about it? Have I tweeted him directly, yeah…”
Carville: “No that’s not what I’m asking…”
Carville: “…and you know. Have you had a face-to-face meeting. At that opportunity to raise it with the most senior politician in the country?”
Cosgrave: “I find this reprehensible. Have RTE covered the fact that this government has never said so much as a word about farmers in this country who’ve occupied farm after farm after farm – halting the for sale of those farms for years now.”
Carville: “Hmmm. But have you…”
Cosgrave: “Have you pointed out the hypocrisy of that? That a group of people from west, believed to be from west Dublin, are castigated as criminals and disgraceful. Why? Because Fine Gael knows they don’t vote for them.”
Carville: “But I’m asking you a simple question Paddy Cosgrave. No, no…”
Cosgrave: “…when farmers occupy properties illegally by the way, illegally, illegally…”
Carville: “I’m asking you a question, you’re in here this morning, making these points, raising your concerns on the back of what has been taking place over the past number of weeks. I’m asking you – as someone in your position, with direct access to the Taoiseach, at an event that you organised this year. Did you talk to him about this…face-to-face?”
Cosgrave: “Oh sure for years, for more than a year, I’ve been raising, for more than two years, I’ve been raising these issues directly with government, with special advisors to a number of ministers…”
Carville: “But not to Leo Varadkar.”
Cosgrave: “I’ve met in my house with the Minister for Housing – because these issues are not just mauling society, they’re affecting the entire economy, they’re shuttering small businesses, they’re forcing multi-nationals, for the first time, in almost the history of this state, to publicly and openly criticise a sitting government. That’s unprecedented.”
Carville: “And yet…”
Cosgrave: “Are there other examples of that? Can you cite another example of a multi-national in this country, publicly criticising a sitting Government?”
Carville: “And yet, I’m reading a report from yesterday’s Sunday Times where figures compiled by property group Green Reit, and a number of commercial property agents, show that eight tech companies, including some of those you mentioned – Amazon, Facebook, Google – who are here and well established here. And they’re looking to create space for an additional 20,000 workers and they’re well aware of the housing crisis.”
Cosgrave: “Sure and the…”
Carville: “So the impact on them is not questionable…”
Cosgrave: “You cite Amazon, this is essentially propaganda. Amazon themselves have, at a ministerial level, raised this issue. The question is, you know, 200,000 jobs. How many jobs is the country losing? How many jobs is the country losing? How many offices are Google and Amazon opening up across Europe – and they’re doing it and I know well that they’re doing it because of the difficulties in finding accommodation.”
Carville: “So how would you solve it? Have you any solutions?”
Cosgrave: “Absolutely, I think there are huge numbers of solutions. There’s nothing radical that’s needed. I think there are perfect examples, all across Europe, that have followed all sorts of policies for years – but those policies aren’t even discussed, they’re not even discussed in the national media, they’re not even discussed by this broadcaster.”
Carville: “Name one.”
Cosgrave: “I think that’s incredibly worrying. Let’s take Germany just as an example, just take tenants’ rights as an example, indefinite lifespan for tenancy contracts, what about the immediate ban of Airbnb? That’s being done in cities across Europe. Three years ago at this point, five years ago, Berlin initiated and indicated that they would start to regulate Airbnb and three years ago they instigated bans and heavy restrictions on Airbnb. That hasn’t happened here. It’s very easy to implement those.”
Carville: “Ok. Well thank you very much for coming in to talk to us this morning…”
Listen back here
Saturday: Sit Down Next To Me
Dublin city centre.
Scenes from The Take back The City Rally highlighting the housing and homeless crisis, which included a sit-down protest which closed traffic on O’Connell Bridge.
Yesterday: Masking The Reality
THESE ROTTEN ENGLISH TOURISTS JUST ROARED ABUSE AT US THEN THREW A PIGEON’S HEAD AT US!!! WHAT THE FUCK ! pic.twitter.com/iyEhfLacwB
— butch babe in LA (@bitnch) September 22, 2018
Was it for this?
From top: A Mural in Ranelagh, Dubliun 6 by the Greay Area artist collective depicting the forced removal of protesters occupying a vacant premises; Bryan Wall
When protestors, under the banner of Take Back the City, occupied a vacant building on North Frederick Street in Dublin, they most likely expected that the government forces would come calling.
Usually this involves threats of legal action with the protestors eventually leaving of their own accord or being removed, sometimes with force, by the Gardaí.
North Frederick Street was different though. Instead of the usual Garda presence, the activists were now faced by masked private security — mercenaries given the context — who were backed up by masked Gardaí.
As expected whenever masked security forces make an appearance, and after literally beating and cutting down the front door, the activists were abused and attacked by the masked men. Four ended up in hospital with a range of injuries, including neck and head injuries.
At least one suffered a concussion which “will need further [medical] attention”. The reaction from the supporters of the state and various government ministers has been par for the course, which is absolutely unsurprising.
But, and this is what many seem to have missed, indicates something much more dangerous and sinister: That the government has both contempt and fear for such activism and that they will stomp it down no matter how it looks.
Contempt for activists and protestors is nothing new in the Irish political milieu. When the anti-water charge protests were at their peak Joan Burton was quick to dismiss the concerns of the activists by referring to the expense of their phones.
Similarly, when Leo Varadkar said there was a “very sinister fringe” involved in the same anti-water charge movement he was, like Burton, displaying a contempt for the activists and protests.
It is fine to question government policy but only within the polite and constrained bounds of Irish political discourse. This means you make representations to your local politician and they do their best to see that your wishes are examined.
Of course, this all depends on the fact that the politician in question deems it worthy of their interest and effort to bring your issue to the attention of others within the political system. If it isn’t worthy, then democracy has spoken and the system has functioned as designed.
Filtering of political issues ensures that the “real” work of governing can get on in spite of the interests of the populous.
When you dare to go around this hierarchy and engage directly with the world then you can be deemed as deserving of nothing but contempt given your disavowal of a perfectly functioning democratic system.
In this way you can then be denigrated as “sinister” or as not truly representing the working class given your particular choice of phone.
In the case of North Frederick Street, the activists are too ignorant to warrant even talking to, therefore they can be dealt with by a private mercenary force.
But the contempt shown for them also betrays a fear of this kind of activism.
This fear exists because the activists in question have gone around the system. Just as the fact that engaging directly with the world and undermining the top-down political hierarchy results in a feeling of contempt amongst the ruling classes, it also engenders fear.
Fear emerges because activism of the kind shown at North Frederick Street demonstrates that the current representative system of politics, in which people and ideas are filtered out, is highly inegalitarian and undemocratic.
To show another way in which society can function will cause a “crisis of democracy” — something I have written about earlier — whereby people who have previously been denied a voice in society finally find an outlet for it.
These kinds of people must not be allowed to gain a foothold, however. Any demonstration of an alternative to the current system must be suppressed.
Hence, the contempt and fear of the ruling elite legitimates their use of force. And that is what makes the violent eviction of the activists on North Frederick Street an important moment in Irish society.
Unless you are willing to play by the neo-liberal rulebook, you will be crushed regardless of how it looks. The system, as it is, must stand.
Those rushing to defend the fact that masked Gardaí were defending a masked private security force miss this very point. For them, the violence inflicted on others will never reach them. Oftentimes, however, people find themselves involved in political or social movements where they never had been before.
This is becoming increasingly so as neo-liberalism and climate change pummel the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. So whilst right now they see themselves as being out of reach of the baton of state-sanctioned violence, this could change at any moment.
All it takes is for one small event to politicise that person and then they are not only within the reach of the aforementioned baton, but they are on the frontlines of a movement.
Instead of realising it too late they must be made to realise now, while there is still time, that fascist tendencies can be as close as only one legislative moment away.
In the aftermath of the eviction, the Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan, said that he would be in favour of legislation to ban the filming or photographing of Gardaí “as they try to go about their policing duties.”
Although the Taoiseach, when asked, said that the government had no plans to introduce such legislation, the mere suggestion of its introduction, by a Justice Minister, should be of great concern.
The concept of a masked police force supported by, or supporting, a likewise masked private security force is a central pillar of an authoritarian state. This is axiomatic and anybody concerned with politics understands this very simple concept.
That a Minister of Justice can advocate for a more or less anonymised police force means that he either has no understanding of democracy, and its obverse, or he does, and favours the method that involves the population being kept in line by brute force.
Although in the instance of Frederick Street no specific legislation was passed in order to violently evict them in defence of a property-owning class, it should be self-evident that the tools of repression can be used according to the whims of those who hold the monopoly on said violence. Here that monopoly holder is the state.
With the suggestion put forward by the Justice Minister in mind, it is obvious how the state resorting to violence and creating a framework in which it can flourish is, if not at the forefront of the minds of some government ministers, then it at least occupies some space in their range of tactics; out of sight but never out of mind.
Along with state violence the use of contempt and hysteria both play an important role in ensuring the success of the former. If this involves intimating or outright claiming violence was carried out by the actual victims, or suggesting that they are inherently violent given their specific set of political or social beliefs, then all the better.
Victimhood at the hands of state-backed violence is not a legitimate defence in the eyes of apologists.
Having the temerity to question how society functions is enough to ensure your place outside of the acceptable limits of political discourse. This being the case, the state and its supporters denigrate, obfuscate, and fearmonger to their heart’s content.
In the aftermath of the evictions, one group in particular has been singled out. An anarcho-communist group, the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (W.S.M.), have had their role in the occupation on Frederick Street highlighted by the state broadcaster.
As the WSM. pointed out, “any or all of the 17 groups that actually comprise Take Back the City” could have been mentioned, among other things, in the reporting of the eviction.
Instead, the W.M. was the only one named. Similarly, former politician, and now talking head, Ivan Yates decried the occupiers, labelling them as “anarchists” and thereby, in his mind at least, calling into question their motives.
That Yates unlikely knows the finer points of anarchist philosophy or theory is of no importance to the wider message. In his mind, anarchism is synonymous with chaos and violence.
In labelling the occupiers as “anarchists” in the derogatory sense he intends, the message is clear. Anyone who is an “anarchist” can be dealt with by masked men willing to commit violence on behalf of state power.
And given that the WSM. were the only organisation involved in Take Back the City who were named by RTÉ., the goal is clear: Undermining the activity of groups like Take Back the City but more importantly, attempting to counter the message that they send to people.
A message that tells people state power can be bypassed and that direct action is an inherently positive undertaking is a threat to a system which relies on the filtering out of certain groups of people.
Brendan Howlin, the leader of the Labour Party, has said that the occupiers and protestors of Take Back the City are “not something I would be associated with”, presumably lamenting the breakdown of the filtering process.
Given Labour’s recent history of its betrayal of the working class this is unsurprising. It is nonetheless maddening in its routine defence of the current political and social system which has seen homelessness and an artificially created housing crisis take hold of the country.
But these issues are unimportant relative to the fact that the system as it currently functions must survive; unimportant to the government and its apologists. If that means masked men working for private security have to kick down doors and beat a few protestors, so be it.
To try and bypass the system in order to create a more just society, or to even merely demonstrate in protest of such injustice, is to declare oneself worthy of a visit from men wearing masks.
What this means for future protests in Ireland is unknown but one thing is certain. Once used, private security in order to support state power is a genie not put back into its bottle.
And whilst this puts activists and protestors on the defensive in the short-term, if anything it shows how effective something like Take Back the City is and how fearful the state has become.
Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here
A Take Back The City rally in August (top) and last week (video above)
The Take Back The City housing activist group are holding a ‘National Day of Action’ with events taking place across the country.
Supporters will gather at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 1pm; in Balbriggan, Dublin at 2pm; at Bishop Lucey Park in Cork at 12.30pm; in Belfast City Hall at 11.30am; on O’Connell Street in Sligo at 12.30pm; and on West Street in Drogheda, Co Louth at 10am.
More as they announce it.
A map detailing all of the Take Back The City events taking place across Ireland tomorrow.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
A work from the Grey Area collective which is “a collaboration of multiple artists, creating works across several mediums with the aim to change the laws surrounding large-scale public artwork in Ireland…And doing our bit for those in need”.
Via Subset Dublin
From top: Frederick Street removal: Mick Wallace; Joan Collins; Claire Daly and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil today.
In the Dáil.
Further to the eviction of housing activists from a vacant property at North Frederick Street last week…
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who authorised members of An Garda Síochána – who wore fire retardant hoods – to attend the eviction.
Joan Collins, also an Independents 4 Change TD, asked Mr Flanagan on what basis were the gardai asked to attend.
Ms Collins referred to the mater as “very, very sinister”.
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly then said:
“I think we have to be very conscious that this incident has set back public confidence in An Garda Síochána considerably. That’s actually my starting point on this issue.
We have, at the backdrop, an unprecedented housing crisis. Where people are homeless, families are homeless. And that the Garda organisation, whose motto is supposed to be ‘to protect and serve’, rallies around to carry out an eviction – resonates really badly with the Irish public and you can call it politically with a small ‘p’.
It was lunacy whoever made the call.
“And, like Deputy Wallace, I don’t believe it was the Commissioner [Drew Harris].”
“The minister says the gardai were only upholding the law. Well my neighbour’s house was broken into and they called the guards and they didn’t’ see one for love nor money. That’s their job, as well.
“They chose to take sides in this incident. There was no signal that they were going to be public order problems of the scale that merited masks and balaclavas and all this type of carry-on and palaver which was really intimidatory.
“And it does deserve an investigation. It particularly deserves and investigation, given that concrete evidence has been produced that shows that the security firm were breaching the law and yet the perception was that the gardai were there to protect them and not actually the public.”
Mr Flanagan, in his response, said:
“I would reiterate again, that the gardai present faced a most difficult task, managing protest, in enforcing the law. There was a matter of abuse, including racial abuse, online threats and intimidation, came to light at the weekend.
“Such threats are utterly unacceptable, rightly being investigated. Gardai work on our behalf. They need support from the public, not intimidation, not abuse. As I’ve said Commissioner Harris has made a statement in relation to the protest. I understand he’s requested a report from Assistant Commissioner DMR, to see what lessons can be learned from the event.
“I can assure the house my department continues to work closely with all stakeholders including An Garda Síochána, to further enhance the safety of the public at such events, while safeguarding the fundamental right of people to protest.
“Of course if people have concerns about the way the garda behave, which I’ve just heard, if people have those concerns, in relation to this or, indeed, any other matter, there are established procedures for pursuing such matters. Deputies are aware of the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission [GSOC] in this regard…”
Previously: What’s Going On Here?