Squatters linked to the worldwide ‘Occupy’ movement have found abandoned NAMA properties around Dublin, in which they are planning to create a “mass occupation”.
The movement to occupy the abandoned houses and flats is being led by 27 year-old Irish-language speaker and graduate from Galway, Liam Mac an Bháird.
The Guardian reports that Liam and some of his friends occupied an abandoned house in Dublin’s northside, which was valued at €550,000 during Ireland’s economic boom, but has since seen a decline in value with a listing of €200,000. Their autumn occupation was said to help draw attention to homelessness, as well as the “way builders and banks were bailed out by the taxpayer.”
While Mac an Bháird openly acknowledges that squatting is illegal, he is more concerned that he and his group are making a valid political point. "There are thousands homeless in this country with about 2,000 on the streets of Dublin alone tonight. Yet across the city there are thousands of flats, apartments, homes lying empty – some could be fit for human habitation,” he said.
Indeed, Mac an Bháird has a point, as there are not only thousands of abandoned properties in Dublin, but there are reportedly up to 400,000 properties “lying empty in the Republic.”
Ireland’s National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) warns that the number of vacant properties could keep house prices low for years.
"Our occupation is a way of making a point about the system we are living under. These properties could lie vacant for up to 10 years or more – so why not put homeless people into them?" posited Mac an Bháird.
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"Ultimately we should be talking about moving a large number of people into one of our 'ghost estates', which otherwise will lie and rot."
Mac an Bháird insists that should such “ghost estates” become occupied by Ireland’s homeless, strict rules will be put in place to retain order and civility. "There are no drugs or drink tolerated in these places during our occupations because we are making a political stand. It is also wholly non-violent, like the Occupy movement. And we do not take anything that doesn't belong to us in the properties we squat in."
Additionally, the groups will survive by “skip-eating,” or gathering leftover food from supermarkets.
Currently, Mac an Bháird and his group have their eyes set on one particular structure that is owned by NAMA and could be used for squatting. "It will be interesting to see if they [Gardai] are prepared to put homeless people out of the building, given that it is owned by the state and hence the people, and given that it will be likely to lie empty for years.”
And with the announcement of further cuts in the December budget, Mac an Bháird predicts growing support from the middle class. "Even at the Occupy camp at the Central Bank, there are middle-class people coming up and telling us they agree with our stance. It is the middle classes who are now paying for the greed of the bankers and the builders, and this corrupt system. They can see the logic behind taking over buildings that otherwise would be left to rot for years."