The New Land League was formed almost spontaneously in 2013, according to its leader, Jerry Beades, when he and others disrupted an Allsops auction in Dublin when property – including farms that had been seized because of unpaid loans – was being sold.
Some of those involved in disrupting the auction were on their way to a protest outside the headquarters of the former Anglo Irish Bank on St Stephen's Green when they saw the sign for the auction.
The protesters succeeded in shutting down the auction. Some sang the national anthem, others quoted from a speech Charles Stewart Parnell gave in Ennis in 1880, in which he called for the boycott of those who took possession of farms after a family had been evicted.
Mr Beades is a former member of Fianna Fáil’s Ard Chomhairle and was a close associate of
when the former taoiseach was active in politics. Mr Beades was himself challenging Ulster Bank at the time over loans the bank valued at €3.5 million.
Styled as a modern iteration of the Land League formed by Michael Davitt, this body has been involved in frequent protests at party political events, evictions and formal events. It has regularly mounted protests at auctions involving the sale of seized property and was one of the groups protesting outside the Labour Party conference in Killarney last weekend.
All of its members are volunteers and Mr Beades says it has the support of about “5,000 to 7,000” people. The group will assist anybody whose family home is being threatened by banks, he says.
The group’s purpose is to coerce banks into sitting down with property owners and negotiate meaningfully.
He said it has included smallholdings as well as high-profile properties valued at millions of euro, including the O’Donnell property in Killiney.
Mr Beades said the group’s support for the O’Donnells was straightforward. “We had a bit of discussion among ourselves, but felt it was a family home. As one of our guys said, we help big and small, we are not compiling a Schindler’s List of who stays and who goes.”