Ireland is ending 2016 with not just a 1916 anniversary but the beginning of the next real people’s protest. An organization, “Home Sweet Home,” led by celebrities is fighting for the record number of homeless people in Dublin and have illegally taken over a large office building to house them. 31 families have already moved in.
With big entertainment names such as Glen Hansard, Andrew Hozier, Saoirse Ronan, Francis Black, Christy Moore and film director Jim Sheridan leading the charge the organization has quickly developed a very large following.
They are contactable at www.homesweethome.irish.
Appearing on Ireland's top-rated TV program, singer Glen Hansard won massive applause and support by outlining the dreadful homeless crisis in Dublin and throughout Ireland (worst since the famine, he stated) and what his group are doing about it,
Hansard admitted live on the hugely popular "The Late Late Show" that they were partaking in an act of ‘civil disobedience.’The country cheered and the news went viral.
A NAMA property, Apollo House in Dublin has been taken over by the group and is now home to many who were sleeping in the streets. The building is on Tara Street near the Liffey on Dublin’s south side.
NAMA (the ‘National Asset Management Agency’) confiscated many financially distressed buildings in Ireland, and mostly sells them off to foreign property companies popularly known as vulture funds. It is a de facto government organization. Nama took the building over from Garrett Kelleher, an Irish developer who once had plans to build the largest skyscraper in America but went broke.
The protesters broke into Apollo House, an office block, rallied very willing volunteers, got electricity and water connected, found beds, bedclothes, bedroom furniture, food, and set up a kitchen and washing facilities, mostly donated by like-minded people nearby.
The spirit seems to be back in The Irish. These are not just the regular protestors, but a group now led by the famous, the good, and everybody with a social conscience.
NAMA lawyers are scrambling to evict the ‘trespassers.’ The Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, condemns the occupation. Lawyers for the receivers have warned that the protestors are trespassing and are acting against the law.
But already major renovations have been carried out, free of charge, by skilled tradesmen. They have installed showers, proper accommodation and cooking facilities.
Thousands of decent people have lost their homes over the past decade. The Government agreed to pay €70 billion to bailout the banks, the developers, and bondholders, thereby inflicting austerity on this generation and the next.
As a result many thousands of Irish families are in serious mortgage arrears and struggling hugely in silence. Hotel rooms are full of evicted families, living in spaces last seen by their ancestors in the 1800’s.
An era of peaceful civil disobedience has begun. Some famous Irish people have had enough and they say 'no more' to our fellow countrymen and women sleeping rough, cold and hungry in Ireland’s doorways.
They say 'No' to government buildings lying empty, 'No' to the idle chit-chat of weak government achieving nothing, and pandering to the EU and the Troika. 'No' to the hundreds of families facing eviction every week.
They say enough is enough. These people are our flesh and blood.There are 6,500 officially homeless people including 2,400 children. Home Sweet Home estimates 70 families a month are losing their homes.
Ireland Christmas 2016, a homeless revolution has started.
* Walter Ryan-Purcell, Goleen, West Cork.