‘You’d be a pariah’: Stigma and risk make evictions unpopular in security sector

Financial reward not enough for many firms which fear reputational damage of videos on social media

The aftermath of the violence that followed the eviction near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, last week. Photograph: Brian Farrell

The aftermath of the violence that followed the eviction near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, last week. Photograph: Brian Farrell

 

Evictions involve too much risk and stigma and are so infrequent that very few Irish security companies become involved in them, senior figures in the private security sector have said.

Most of the sources who spoke to The Irish Times believed fewer than five Irish security companies took on eviction work. And a number of them only knew for certain of two companies that did.

However, several also suspected firms in the Republic were taking on eviction work from banks and then outsourcing it to companies in Northern Ireland.

And they suspected this was the case in Co Roscommon last week when the McGann family was evicted with force from their home at Falsk near Strokestown by a group of Northern Irish men.

“The money for evictions is much higher in the Republic and that makes it more attractive to guys from the North,” said one source.

Most of the senior security figures who spoke to The Irish Times did so on condition of anonymity.

They said they did not want their company name in a story about evictions even in the context of making it clear they had never carried out an eviction.

Inadequate remuneration

A senior executive at one company said evictions simply did not pay enough.

“If you needed to take control of a property, even the land around it or maybe a farm, you’d need a large group; maybe 10 to 20 bodies,” said one senior industry insider, adding a job could take several days or even a week.

“You’d also need to kit staff out with cameras, and two-way radios. It could be a considerable job,” he explained.

“If you’re only doing it once in a while, it’s just not worth it. There is also a stigma attached to it. But if even if you leave that aside, it’s not a good commercial proposition.”

Another source with decades of experience in the private security sector said the scope for somebody to be injured, or even killed, was real when it came to evictions where people resisted, as was the case in Roscommon.

“You would definitely need disciplined staff who are really experienced and those kinds of people can make a living doing other security work,” he said.

“Who would want to be splashed all over YouTube, Facebook with their photos circulating for months or even years attached to an eviction? It’s a taboo in Ireland.”

Another source said his company had been approached several times to carry out evictions. He would not be drawn on the fees being offered but said they were significant.

“We just wouldn’t do this kind of work. Socially it wouldn’t sit with us; you’d be a pariah,” he said.

Regulator

Under current rules in the Republic the Private Security Authority (PSA) regulates the security sector and investigates complaints about security workers.

All security employees must be vetted, trained and registered and they must wear a badge with their registration number.

However, the execution of court orders is not deemed to be security work. It means there is no obligation on banks, for example, to use registered security workers to enforce orders.

Instead, anyone they deem suitable can call to a property and are legally empowered to use force to remove those who refuse to leave.

However, depending on the outcome of a Department of Justice review, the execution of possession orders may soon be brought under the remit of the PSA.

Allan Gannon, who owns Frontline Security and has about 300 part-time and full-time staff, said he had been offered eviction work.

“These people will say to you: ‘You’re in line to make big money here’,” he said. “But I have told them I’d sooner sleep in a shop doorway myself than do it.

“I just couldn’t put Irish families, Irish people, out on the street. I will never do it.”

The eviction business was niche and unpopular and Gannon did not see that changing, especially in the wake of the events in Roscommon.

Data released by the Central Bank yesterday confirms the views of Gannon and others that forced evictions are few and far between in the Republic.

In the third quarter of this year 68 cases, from 728,075 private residential mortgages in the Republic, resulted in private residences being repossessed as a result of court orders.

Said one source: “Even with the cases that go as far as courts ordering repossessions, most people just leave their house before bailiffs call to force them out.

“They don’t want the embarrassment that comes with being evicted. These cases [of evictions with force] are very, very rare in Ireland.”