Housing crisis: Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge scene of mass protest

Take Back the City campaign rallies thousands in support of peaceful demonstration

Large crowds protesting the ongoing housing and homelessness crisis take over O'Connell bridge in Dublin city centre, bringing traffic to a standstill. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

All four corners of Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge were blocked for more than an hour on Saturday, as several thousand people participated in a sit-down protest urging an end to the housing crisis.

The Take Back the City group organised the peaceful demonstration which had begun at 1pm at the Garden of Remembrance. The group has been involved in several occupations of vacant buildings in the capital in recent weeks. Speakers addressed the crowd there before moving off at about 2pm to march to an “undisclosed location”, which transpired to be the city centre sit-down.

Carrying banners and placards – with such slogans as “Student homes, not student loans”, “Houses for people, not for profit” and “Public housing, not landlord state” – the crowd was vociferous. Its rallying calls included: “When housing rights are under attack, stand up, fight back”, “housing is a human right, that is why we’ve got to fight” and “Murphy in your ivory tower, this is called people power”, in reference to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

When the protesters encircled the bridge stewards urged people to sit down, thus blocking all entrances to the bridge from the quays , O’Connell Street, D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street.

When the protesters encircled the bridge stewards urged people to sit down, thus blocking all entrances to the span from the quays. Photograph: The Irish Times
When the protesters encircled the bridge stewards urged people to sit down, thus blocking all entrances to the span from the quays. Photograph: The Irish Times
Parents and their children were among the thousands who participated in The Take Back the City group’s National Day of Action in Dublin over the housing shortage. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Parents and their children were among the thousands who participated in The Take Back the City group’s National Day of Action in Dublin over the housing shortage. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Times past and present: Take Back the City group’s National Day of Action over the housing shortage in the capital. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Times past and present: Take Back the City group’s National Day of Action over the housing shortage in the capital. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Marchers wind their way through the city centre on the National Day of Action. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Marchers wind their way through the city centre on the National Day of Action. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Protesting over the the housing shortage and homeless crisis in Dublin city. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Protesting over the the housing shortage and homeless crisis in Dublin city. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

The demonstrators, including many with children in prams and a number of people in wheelchairs, stayed put for about 45 minutes as gardaí diverted traffic from the bridge. People, including some affected by the housing and homeless crises, addressed the crowd.

The Garda presence was low key though a Garda helicopter flew above the assembly on several occasions.

Among them was Conor (23) from Dublin who was there because, despite the fact he had a “good job with AIB”, could not afford to move out of his parents’. “My sister too, she’s 30 and has everything together in her life except that one thing – she can’t afford to move out of home.”

Marie Jones (45) from Finglas said she had almost been homeless with her child “only for the fact I had family to go to. It’s so normal now. You talk to people and so many are on, like a hamster wheel, trying to pay rent, worrying about becoming homeless, going homeless. The Government isn’t listening to the people. This is the only way we are going to make them listen. This is totally peaceful.”

I’m here because I’m standing up for my children

Gerard Doyle was with his children, Saoirse (6) and Bobby (5), both of whom, he says, were born into destitution. He, his partner and children were recently the subject of an attempted eviction from a B&B to which armed gardaí were called. He says when he had a disagreement with management the family was asked to leave. When they refused, gardaí were called. They are still in the B&B which he says is “about the seventh in the last seven years. I’m here because I’m standing up for my children. The Government would like them hidden away, out of sight. I’m standing up for other families. We don’t deserve for this to be happening to us.”

Margaret Cash was also there with some of her children and wider family. Ms Cash’s photograph of her six children sleeping in a Garda station last month because they could not get emergency accommodation produced an unsettling ripple effect after it went viral.

Aisling Bruen of the Housing and Homeless Coalition and Take Back the City said the day had been a “big success”. Although she hoped bigger numbers would take part in a demonstration on housing outside Dáil Éireann on October 3rd.

Asked about the inconvenience caused by the protest she replied: “The traffic has been blocked for 45 minutes, but that is nothing compared the inconvenience being caused to thousands of people’s lives by this housing crisis.”