Trinity students rally against “gardaí and landlord alliance”

The protest brought traffic on O’Connell street to a standstill

Trinity students rallied against the “gardaí and landlord alliance” alongside housing activists this evening. Protesters engaged in a sit-down protest on O’Connell Street where they obstructed traffic at the Parnell monument at the north end of the street.

Demonstrators met outside 34 North Frederick street earlier this evening to protest what many called was a violent response from Gardaí last night as occupiers were evicted from the property. Protesters chanted slogans including “Homes for people, not for profit”, “People not profit” and “Leo Leo Leo, Out Out Out”, and displayed images of masked Gardaí involved in the eviction last night. The protest then moved on to the third occupied property at 41 Belvedere place for the final rally.

The Take Back the City protests, which include members of Take Back Trinity, follows the arrest and subsequent release of six housing activists last night, including Trinity student Conchúir Ó Rádaigh, as occupiers were evicted from the property. Speaking to Trinity News, Ó Rádaigh said he sustained multiple injuries during his arrest, including soft tissue damage through his neck, a small bone deviation, and a concussion. He was also told there was a possible “small bleed” in his brain.

Trinity’s Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisín Vince Coulter condemned yesterday’s violence, saying that: “It was an absolute disgrace, that in the middle of the absolute worst housing crisis this state has seen in decades, balaclava’d [sic] gardaí were defending hired thugs, also in balaclavas, as both groups beat and batter peaceful protestors, including students, arrested five of them, and hospitalised two”.

Vince Coulter urged people to attend the rally and called on anyone who: “believes in a right to peaceful protest, believes that the housing crisis requires immediate action, or generally believes that the this country seems to be going in a very dangerous and worrying direction.”

Occupiers were removed from 34 North Frederick Street occupation last night after an occupation which lasted 25 days. Two weeks previously, a High Court injunction was issued against ‘all persons unknown in occupation of 34 Frederick St North’ calling upon them to vacate the building.”

The property is owned by Patricia Ní Greil, daughter of Colm McGreal, an insurance broker with McGreal Insurance. According to occupiers, the McGreals had left the property vacant for the last three years.

Activist group Take Back The City called on housing and human rights activists, opposers of police brutality, and anyone who was capable, to join this evening’s rally “in solidarity with those who were arrested last night and assaulted.”

The group issued a statement that protesters yesterday evening sustained injuries, “at the hands of both the security firm and An Garda Síochána,” who were present at the eviction. They also pointed out that the injuries “were so severe they [sic] required hospitalisation.”

“This needs to be a turning point in the movement. This needs to be the moment at which we mobilise together, en masse, and say enough is enough,” Take Back The City continued. According to the group, this evening’s rally makes “a clear statement that last night’s disgusting actions cannot and will not be tolerated”.

Student-led campaign Take Back Trinity (TBT), also condemned the events which occurred last night outside the formerly occupied property. They said that: “TBT condemns the use of excessive force and would like to highlight the tactic of the state: to quash peaceful housing activists in the midst of an ever deepening housing crisis.”

Take Back Trinity also accused a private security firm involved in the removal of breaking the law. They claimed that: “unmarked thugs arrived in a plateless van between 6pm and 7pm, breaking into Frederick Street with a set of power tools, and violently removing protestors. All thugs wore balaclavas and resisted anti eviction protestors attempt to identify them. This is in direct contrivance of the Private Security (Identity Badge) Regulations 2009.”

Speaking to Trinity News about the importance of the protest, Take Back Trinity member Seán Egan noted that “it’s time to highlight the need for accountability and justice not just for these housing activists but for the many victims of Gardaí intimidation, harassment and abuse.”

He criticised the Gardaí and said that “we can see from scandal after scandal that there is a culture of corruption and a casual attitude to violence in the Gardaí.” He also went on to add that: “now we need to exert more pressure to make sure that this police brutality is not utilised against activists again.”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) released a statement earlier today condemning the arrest of Conchúir Ó Rádaigh. Posting on their Facebook page, they said: “TCDSU strongly condemns the arrests and hospitalisation of a student and member of our organisation.”

TCDSU recognised that: “[Ó Rádaigh] has been part of the on-going peaceful direct actions which are taking place around the country calling for action on the Housing Crisis. The arrest and abuse of peaceful protestors is truly horrifying and must never be tolerated.”

They concluded by stating: “the time for action arrived long ago and the inaction exhibited by the Minister for Housing has driven young people to rise and take it upon their own hands to bring about change.”

Occupiers are currently holding 43 Belvedere Place after protesters marched from the GPO to the property on Saturday. They have engaged in door knocking and banner drops since occupying the building.

Activists also recently occupied the Custom House, where it called for a meeting with Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy, in return for vacating the building. The group ultimately cancelled the meeting, citing logistical errors arising from the changing of the conditions of the meeting by the minister.

The protests began in July with the occupation of a house on Summerhill Parade. This followed the removal of around 120 tenants from the properties, by landlord PJ O’Donnell. Following an injunction issued by the High Court, occupiers vacated the premises, and moved to occupy the North Frederick Street property.

The group have three main demands, which are the tightening of rent caps to €300, or 20% of a person’s income. They also call for the compulsory purchase of all vacant property in the capital, and more specifically the compulsory purchase of the previously occupied Summerhill Parade properties.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is a current Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. He is a Senior Fresh Law student, and a former Senior Reporter.