A group of activists stood up to a Deputy Sheriff in County Laois – and prevented a man losing his house to a bank.
In the first recent case of its kind in Ireland, the protesters saw off the attempts to evict Lee Wellstead, 47, from his home.
Housing activists and politicians, including an independent deputy, worked together to stave-off the eviction in Mountrath.
People Before Profit deputy Joan Collins was amongst the group who prevented the Sheriff, accompanied by local police, from re-possessing the house on behalf of Ulster Bank.
The home owner had lost his Commercial Court case against the Bank over non-payment of his mortgage.
Deputy Collins told TheJournal.ie that it won’t be the last such case in Ireland.
She said: “The main aim is that there will be no evictions or repossessions of family homes in Ireland.”
Wellstead bought the three-bedroom property on four acres of land in Knockanina - near Mountrath and Castletown - in 2003 for €80,000 and then acquired a top loan on the mortgage of €30,000.
The bank was granted a re-possession offer last year after he failed to keep up with the repayments.
An online video of the stand-off shows Ben Gilroy from the group Freedom from All Debt arguing with the deputy sheriff Pat Dunne.
Gilroy is heard arguing with Dunne that it is unconstitutional for him to attempt to evict Wellstead from his home before the sheriff and police officer left.
“We’re trying to work on two fronts,” Collins told TheJournal.ie “We’re defending people from evictions but we’re also going to put our own bill through the Dáil (parliament) in relation to homeowners and to help them when they are in distress with their mortgage.”
Reports say that 600 properties are repossessed each year in Ireland.
“We hope the successful blocking of the eviction can raise awareness of our campaign,” said Collins.
“What we wanted to do is highlight that people will stand with these people facing eviction if people ask us to do it.
“Some people are particularly ashamed of letting people know what they’re going through. They are fearful that they are in debt and people knowing about it.
“We’re trying to get the word out so people can know that we will stand with them if they are evicted.”
The bank will now have to serve another eviction order against Wellstead and then send the Sheriff back.
“We’ll be back down again if he does do that,” warned Collins. “These banks gave out these loans in full knowledge that people were strapped and now they’re saying we’re going to take them back and they’ll be forced into social housing.
“But there’s no room on the social housing list for these people to be accommodated.”
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