‘Winter of Discontent’ Housing and Homelessness rally held outside Dáil

Jamie Mc Carron 

Molesworth Street

A rally held by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition (NHHC) outside Dáil Éireann on Wednesday evening was attended by hundreds of activists and community organisers.

September the 15th marked the Dáil’s first day reconvening after a six week summer break, and government business had not been held in Leinster House full-time since April 2020 due to a move to the Convention Centre to facilitate social distancing.

Prior to the rally’s start at 5:30 pm the NHHC’s social media called on the public to “greet the Irish Government with a housing protest” and demanded that housing be built on public land.

Speakers included People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, Social Democrat TD Cian O’Callaghan and Union of Students in Ireland Vice President for Campaigns, Beth O’Reilly.

O’Reilly told the crowd that: “It’s gotten to the point where this isn’t a country for young people. This housing crisis is a student issue and it’s an all-Ireland student issue. From Cork to Belfast there are thousands of students who should be excited about beginning the best years of their lives but instead are booking hostel rooms, begging for accommodation on Twitter or commuting from across the country because they cannot find a place to live.”

“It’s a kick in the teeth to every student walking home from lectures past empty and derelict buildings when they can’t find a place to live. The Department of Higher Education loves to talk about access to education but it can’t be separated from access to accommodation,” she continued.

The crowd congregated around a raised doorway on Molesworth Street where organisers spoke with the aid of microphones.

A large part of Kildare Street was inaccessible due to barricades erected by an Garda Síochána and several Gardai mounted on horseback watched the rally unfold.

Representatives of student’s unions from DCU, Trinity College and University College Dublin were in attendance as well as activists and officials from People Before Profit, Sinn Fein, the Social Democrats, the Labour party, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, and Community Action Tenant’s Union among others.

DCU Student Union Vice President for Community and Citizenship, Ross Boyd, attended the rally and spoke to the College View about the significance of the gathering.

“In my position I’ve seen how bad the housing crisis is for students, how students are forced to stay in hotels spending thousands each semester. I’m calling on the government to put more action into this with the Union of Students in Ireland.”

“I think the turn-out is great, it shows that people are angry. Getting people in this post-pandemic era shows how much people care, students and student unions coming out shows the power of the student movement. I think when we get some bigger numbers and people feel more safe to attend it’ll be a big challenge to the government,” he added.

Bernard Joyce of the Irish Traveller Movement and Paddy Diver, a campaigner seeking 100% redress for Mica-effected homes, spoke on the importance of solidarity across all backgrounds of people struggling to find adequate housing.

‘No more empty houses’ was spray-painted on the street directly facing Leinster House and chants of ‘Homes for people, not for profit’ broke out several times.

Two weeks ago the government launched a plan dubbed ‘Housing for All’ which aims to build 300,000 new homes by the end of the decade on an annual budget of over four billion euro.

This would mean as many as 33,000 new homes every year for the public and private sector.

This announcement came shortly before a research report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the ESRI.

Titled ‘Monitoring Adequate Housing in Ireland,’ the report found that 4% of Irish adults believe they will need to move accommodation in the next six months due to inaffordability.

Jamie Mc Carron

Photo Credit: Jamie Mc Carron