Trinity students among participants in Festival of Direct Action against housing crisis

The festival consists of multiple demonstrations across the country

Credit: Irish Housing Network

Trinity students are participating in the Festival of Direct Action, a month-long series of direct actions starting today protesting the housing crisis, ending with a national day of action on August 25. The event follows two housing forums held in the past month.

The Festival of Direct Action is being coordinated by the Irish Housing Network, alongside the assistance of a network of grassroots community housing groups. It aims to highlight the growing issue of homelessness, with over 10,000 people in Ireland presently without a home.

There are currently seven groups taking part in the action across the weekend. These are Dublin Central Housing Action (DCHA), North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Community, Blanchardstown Housing Action Committee, Housing Action Kildare, Dublin Renters’ Union, Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland (RAMSI) and Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI). The Take Back Trinity campaign have also been operating under the DCHA during the summer.

The groups are also engaging in today’s Trans Pride Parade. One of the parade’s main demands is the provision of public housing for all. Banners and signs are to be dropped at multiple locations along the marching route to bring attention to the issue of housing.

According to Trinity student Conchúir Ó  Raidaigh, who is participating in the event, it will be “dress rehearsal” for a more ambitious weekend in August and a mobilisation of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the National Coalition of Housing and Homelessness in October.  

Ó  Raidaigh continued to say that this weekend is “the start of a sustained effort that we believe will draw in many more students, placing us in the heart of a social force that has the potential to reimagine and build a future where all else is subordinated to our collective needs and happiness”.

Oisín Vince Coulter, a member of the Take Back Trinity campaign and an individual involved in DHCA, also expressed the importance of the protests. He noted that the crisis “massively affects students, as anyone who has looked for accommodation in Dublin in the last few years knows well”.

Vince Coulter called for state action, explaining that “urgent action is required by both the government and third level institutions; public housing and student housing must be built. In both cases these must be high quality, accessible to all and distributed based on need not income”.

Today, Blanchardstown Housing Action Committee and Dublin North West Community Housing Action Group also engaged in a banner drop as part of the planned actions across the country.

Credit: Blanchardstown Housing Action Committee

The first action of the festival took place yesterday, with Dublin Renters’ Union and many support groups protesting at real estate investment and services firm Kennedy Wilson. According to the event’s Facebook page, the protest began with an outdoor presence, but escalated into “an occupation and standoff for approx [sic] two hours”.

Many also engaged in smaller actions, with participants in the Dublin area targeting a number of vacant properties. Those involved attached posters to the doors of vacant properties with the message “shame on you, this could have been a home”.

Take Back Trinity also took to the streets to operate a stall and knock on doors to inform people about direct action happening throughout the weekend. This took place alongside Dublin Central Housing Action and Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland. Similar action took place in Kildare today, with volunteers meeting to engage in leaflet distribution, placard holding and engaging with the public.

Recognising the importance of engagement, Ó  Raidaigh noted that, “by forging strong links with community housing activists confronting these actors we can contribute to what is quickly becoming a mass social movement on housing.”

“There are far better solutions to the housing problems we face as students and citizens, including ambitious public housing schemes and tougher rent controls but these solutions will remain out of reach as long as we avoid confrontation with those who have a vested interest in the status quo in profit making and property.”

Vince Coulter, who is also the President of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU). urged student involvement and said “I would call on all students to join the housing movement, either via their Students’ Union or local grassroots group. Things will never get better if we don’t fight for change”.

Speaking to Trinity News, the Take Back Trinity campaign said it was “taking its cue” from the previous student accommodation protests and said “the rent caps won by this year’s protests aren’t enough- not only do they detract from the underlying problem, that the rent is already too high- they leave the door open for landlords to thrust rent up under the guise of ‘major renovations’. Renovations on Trinity’s own accommodations have seen attempts to raise students rents by over 10%, as recently as March.”

This follows four months of protests at Dublin City University (DCU) against rent increases of up to 27%. These protests saw attendance from members of the Take Back Trinity campaign in solidarity with the movement, which became known as the Shanowen Shakedown.

National University of Ireland, Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) has also filed a case against accommodation provider Cúirt na Coiribe in recent months due to rent increases. The accommodation provider issued an 18% rent increase for students, which amounted to an additional €1,000 cost. The conflict drew over 400 protestors as part of the Cúirt Shakedown and over 5,000 signatures supporting the campaign petition.

However, in recent weeks a bill has been introduced to cap rents on purpose-built student accommodation, following recent motions by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. The proposed legislation would introduce caps for students, and also promote digs and rent-a-room schemes. The legislation would allow for the regulation of student rent prices, and is set to be developed over the summer.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.