Housing activist group Take Back the City have forced the cancellation of a tribunal hearing of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). The activist group objected to an eviction case brought forward today, alleging that the case was being made on false grounds of anti-social behaviour. The activist group also objected to the composition of the tribunal membership and alleged members with property interests were not independent adjudicators.
Take Back the City assembled at the Spire on O’Connell street before occupying the lobby of the RTB. The group stated that they were occupying the building in support of a family that was subject to an appeal of an eviction order brought before a tribunal of the RTB.
The protestors then moved to occupy the tribunal chamber, holding a “Take Back the City” banner behind the three members of the tribunal. Take Back the City members alleged that members of the tribunal with property interests were not suitably impartial to adjudicate on cases and that the independence of the tribunal body was compromised by conflicts of interest. Two protestors from the group repeatedly demanded that the tribunal members state whether they had property interests to the room.
Tribunal member Dairine McFadden stood up to address the group, stating that that they intended to continue with the hearing despite their presence. She said that “members of the public are entitled to be here” but requested that they remain silent or would be asked to leave. In response, the group then began to engage in chants. The three members of the tribunal then exited the chamber to an adjoining room.
During the protest, Take Back the City member Patrick Neils said: “The members who sit on the tribunal, one is chair of the Landlords Association of Ireland; that’s not good enough, that’s not an independent body and we also we also have tribunal members who are estate agents and landlords; that’s a conflict of interest to deciding cases.”
Neils later addressed the demonstrators gathered in the tribunal room and read out a letter from the case officer confirming that the tribunal would be adjourned to a future date.
Speaking to the group during the protest, People Before Profit (PBP) TD Mick Barry criticised Fine Gael and Fianna Fail party members in government who are listed as landlords.
In a statement from to Trinity News, the RTB stated: “We are currently engaging with representatives from the group, Take Back The City. We are listening carefully to the views they are expressing and the questions they are raising. We would reiterate, that our mission in the RTB is always to protect the rights of tenants and of landlords.”
This is the group’s first direct action since it occupied the Airbnb head office at Hanover Quay in October.
The activists have also previously engaged in a number of occupations, namely at properties in North Frederick Street, Summerhill and Belvedere Place. During the eviction of North Frederick Street, six activists were arrested, including Trinity student, Conchúir Ó’Ráidigh.
The group also blocked traffic on O’Connell Bridge during a sit-down protest in September.
Additional reporting by Michael Gilna.