Members of the public should “evict the Government”, a rally in Dublin on the housing crisis and allied cost of living problems has heard.
The ban on no-fault evictions lapsed at midnight on Friday with thousands of notices to quit issued to tenants now becoming live, while others will become effective in the months ahead.
On Saturday, hundreds of people attended a protest outside the Dáil, calling for the reinstatement of the eviction ban.
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The demonstration was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition, which comprises several campaign groups and political parties, including Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit, the Labour Party and Aontú.
Addressing the crowd, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said “today is a day of shame” as the eviction ban lapsed.
“They [the Government] made the decision to deliberately allow the eviction of thousands and thousands of men, women and children. People who are ill, people who are elderly, working people, paying their taxes, people who have done nothing wrong whatsoever, to be evicted,” he said.
“People power can drive this Government back, it can evict this Government.”
Finn Geaney, from the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, said there are many aspects to the current cost of living crisis but housing was particularly acute.
“We’re being told it is an equal rights situation between a tenant and a landlord. There is not. The landlord is managing an income stream, the tenant is facing eviction and uncertainty. There is no equality there,” he said.
“We’re told that there are all these poor people who ended up as accidental landlords. There is no such a thing as accidental landlords. You don’t have a house landing on your front lawn and somebody says ‘that’s now yours’.”
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Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly received loud applause when she proclaimed “shame, shame, shame” on the Government and the Independent TDs who supported the lifting of the ban.
“We know the reality. We know what is facing people who are terrified of having the only safety net taken away from them. Shame on every housing minister who has brought us to this point,” she added.
Louise Bayliss, spokeswoman for Spark, which represents single-parent families, said it was April Fool’s Day but “no more are we being taken as fools”.
“Lone parents are the household most likely to be in emergency accommodation tonight,” she said.
Highlighting situations of domestic violence, she added: “Tonight, there are thousands of women and men who are in abusive relationships, who are trapped in their housing because they are choosing ‘do I put up with the bruising or do I end up with me and my children homeless?’ That is wrong.”
People Before Profit handed out leaflets advising attendees on “how to overhold”. It recommended tenants should contact housing charity Threshold to apply to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) for dispute resolution, and to advise their landlord that they are unable leave because they have nowhere to go but will continue to pay rent.
Derek Reilly said he attended the protest because “too many people were without secure housing”.
“It just can’t continue. We need to take a stand. If we don’t, more and more people will be on the streets. That can’t happen in 2023. We deserve better. Working class people deserve better,” he said.
The decision not to extend the eviction ban has been condemned by housing and homelessness campaigners, with Fr Peter McVerry describing it as a “nightmare”. Focus Ireland founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said the decision to end the ban made her “sad and very angry”.
But Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said it was “the responsible move to make”, adding that continuing with the ban would have resulted in “more and more properties being lost and making a difficult situation worse”.