Trinity students have today blocked traffic on O’Connell Bridge, as part of the Take Back the City National Day of Action. The demonstration began in the Garden of Remembrance today at 1pm, and left the garden at 2pm. The event saw over 500 people in attendance. Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) also supported the demonstration.
Aisling Bruen spoke to the crowds outside of the Garden of Remembrance. She claimed the government was attempting to “dehumanise and politicise” activists, while also calling on demonstrators to “put the personal back into what is going on”.
Students then marched down O’Connell Street, where over 500 marchers engaged in chanting. The marched obstructed the O’Connell street road, leaving cars and buses trailing behind them. Activists then proceeded to block O’Connell bridge on both sides.
The “sit down” blockade is ongoing, and saw around all marchers take part. Traffic travelling in both directions were obstructed, as activists remained stationary, holding banners and chanting.
Speaking to Trinity News ahead of the march, Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin said: “This demonstration is to say that we need change and I think it’s a reflection of the fact – and this is important for Trinity students and others – this is not a moment to be passive, it’s not a moment to be a spectator. This is a moment to be an activist, democratic, peaceful, to assert the power of people on the street and to force a government that is happy to sit on the sidelines to come off their sidelines and to make the change that people need.”
Housing action also took place in other cities across the country, with a large gathering occurring in Belfast and Kildare. Activists met outside of the Town Hall, and Cill Mhuire school respectively. The activists marched through their local areas, while engaging in banner drops, chanting, and listening to speeches.
Speaking to Trinity News, Take Back the City member, and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisin Vince Coulter, said: “This is an important step forward in allowing for continued growth of what we need which is a mass movement of housing for students, for migrants, for young workers because this is what we need – a mass movement on the streets taking direct action to ensure that we have housing as a human right for everyone.”
The action follows two weeks after housing activists clashed with Gardaí, following a High Court injunction to vacate an occupied North Frederick Street property. The clashes saw six activists arrested, two of which were students.
Trinity student, and Take Back Trinity member, Conchúir Ó’Ráidigh, went to hospital after the clash. Speaking to Trinity News, he said that he had been “pretty badly roughed up”. He recalled that he had received “punches into me [sic], I got knees, I got elbows, and the most serious thing I got was a kick to the head”.
Speaking at the march, Ó’Ráidigh said: “We’ve seen the Take Back the City movement captivate hearts and minds in the capital city now for about six weeks through a series of occupations and ambitious direct actions and really the formation of a movements of students, migrants, and working class people coming together for the cause of housing.”
The action comes as students are involved in an occupation of a Belvedere Place property. 41 Belvedere Place was occupied two weeks ago, and saw over 100 supporters march from the GPO to the property in solidarity. The property is owned by Michael Joseph Horgan, whose business is registered in the UK.
The activists have previously engaged in occupations of North Frederick Street, and Summerhill properties, while also occupying the Custom House, where they demanded a meeting with Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy. However, this meeting was cancelled due to “logistical issues”.
The group has three main demands, which are the compulsory purchase of 33-39 Summerhill parade, which saw 120 residents asked to vacate the premises with one day’s notice. They also call for the compulsory purchase of all vacant land in the capital, and the tightening of rent caps to 30% of a person’s income, or €300 per person.