Taoiseach claims Sinn Féin ‘balaclava slipped’ in eviction row

Pearse Doherty tells Dáil: ‘It was an ordeal of thuggery from a group of men acting on behalf of a financial institution’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty of letting his “balaclava slip” in a row over the controversial eviction in Co Roscommon last week. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty of letting his “balaclava slip” in a row over the controversial eviction in Co Roscommon last week.

There were bitter exchanges over the eviction by a private security firm of three elderly people from their farm near Strokestown and the subsequent vigilante incident early on Sunday morning when eight people were injured four vehicles were set on fire, and a dog had to be put down at the farm.

Mr Doherty had said that what happened when the family was evicted was a “disgrace. It was unjustified and it brought to mind the scenes of our past where families were being evicted and thrown onto the side of the road.”

“It was an ordeal of thuggery from a group of men acting on behalf of a financial institution with the gardaí watching on.”

He said “it’s time for a policy shift away from satisfying the demands of the banks and supporting families”.

The Donegal TD said it was extraordinary that door staff or people providing security in shops or changing a lock to a front door are expected to be regulated and comply with the highest standards.

“But if these henchmen, these enforcers for the banks come in and ram down your door and drag out an elderly citizens by their ears from their own home and throw them out of their own home, they go without regulation, without authorisation and without oversight.

“Those enforcing evictions who are acting in a violent and abusive way need to be held accountable.”

He called for the urgent amendment of the Private Security Service Act to include security personnel to the same regulation and oversight.

Mr Varadkar believed the law should be changed and that Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was looking at the issue and would bring forward proposals in January.

The Taoiseach said that when the Act was first introduced in 2004 the inclusion of those overseeing eviction orders was overlooked.

But he stressed the High Court in Ireland did not light issue an eviction order and they should be careful about commenting on individual cases.

Mr Varadkar then hit out at Mr Doherty who criticised those working for the banks but he said he failed to mention the violent incident at the farm in question at the weekend.

The Taoiseach told Mr Doherty it was very concerning that “you had nothing to say about what happened afterwards”.

Mr Doherty replied that the Taoiseach was not dealing with his questions and other Sinn Féin TDs heckled Mr Varadkar.

But the Taoiseach responded that “it doesn’t take long for your balaclava to slip”.

Mr Doherty repeatedly called on the Taoiseach to withdraw his remarks as Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher intervened to call order.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said little had been heard about the “financial and emotional violence heaped” heaped on families by banks and vulture funds. “They have the terrorised the old and infirm not with baseball bats but with bailiffs and sheriffs,” he said.

The Taoiseach said there were options for people who genuinely could not pay their debts and the money they owed and 116,000 people had had their mortgage restructured.

Roscommon Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said it was time to work on legislation “to stop heavy gangs evicting people once and for all”.

Mr Varadkar agreed private security firms should be regulated but added that people had to take personal responsibility and pay back money they owed. He said that “if other people do not pay back their debts, then there will be no credit for the people trying to set up a business or buy a home for the first time” and “then all of us face higher interest rates”.