The evictions in Strokestown which led to retaliation from locals in the early hours of Sunday morning was an inevitable result of the frustrations and hardships faced by the ordinary Irish people as a result of Fine Gael policy.
In a recent tweet that has since gathered momentum I pointed out how Fine Gael have failed to deal with the housing crisis. But not only have they failed to deal with it, they are actively refusing to pass any legislation that may ease the tension in any way. This was never more clear than when Fine Gael voted against the Anti-Evicitons Bill proposed by People Before Profit.
The Governments stance in favour of the free market and evictions, came two days after the elderly siblings in Strokestown were evicted from their family home.
Let’s examine the above scene that Strokestown locals were subjected to. For a start, it’s clear that the “security firm” were using excessive force, bared no official identification, and were on looked by the Gardaí who did nothing to protect the civilians. In released videos it is also evident that the security firm in question identified as “British”. This immediately strikes resemblance to the scenes at 41 Belvedare place where a UVF linked firm evicted protesting occupiers.
The eviction was met with fury by Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice who pointed out that “They were aided and abetted by An Garda Síochána, which is disgraceful”. Michael Fitzmaurice then summed up the mood of his constituency when he stated that “Irish people need to wake up, especially if people are coming from the North. We must take them on and stop what is happening.” Fine Gael should have taken this as a foreboding sign of things to come.
But why are the Gardaí protecting and working with these illegal Northern security firms? The answer can only come from two people, the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, and his recently appointed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Neither of which have cared to explain. But it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to draw the connections between the timing of these evictions (after Drew Harris’ appointment), his former role in the PSNI, and Unionist background.
We also need to place the historical context on this situation. One big difference between Strokestown and 41 Belvedare Place is the location. The West of Ireland still feels the scars of the mass evictions forced on them by British landlords. The sight of self identified British men in uniform evicting a struggling Irish family couldn’t have been more incendiary.
Finally we look at the state of the country in general. Fine Gael’s economic and housing policy has led to 10,000 homeless, 4,000 of which are children, 500,000 in housing distress, and 800,000 living below the poverty line. The country is feeling the burden of pro market neoliberal policies which has led to chaos in more countries than Ireland. This is most acutely reflected by the fact that the people who retaliated against the security firm on Sunday morning wore yellow vests, in solidarity with the Gilets Juanes in France.
The Government will point in the direction of increases to the HAP scheme. But scheme’s such as these only serve to drive up rental prices as landlord’s know that HAP will make up the difference if people can’t afford. Leo Varadkar claims that more houses were built this year than ever before, but fail’s to mention that the Government have only met 48% of it’s social housing targets this year. Even more concerning is that a mere 8% of new builds are social housing.
So, why continue to employ these failing policies? If you look at the evidence, it’s quite clear. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are middle class parties. The majority of the people who vote for them will either be homeowners or landlords themselves. When you look at the Dáil 25% of TD’s are landlords. The incentive, politically, simply is not there. Not to mention that Leo has some friends in the banking sector such as John Malone, who happens to be a Non Executive Director of KBC Ireland as well as Comptroller & Auditor General for Fine Gael’s Government.
To put that all together, neoliberal policies, country in crisis, northern security firms, historical context, on looking Gardaí, and only for Fine Gael to vote against banning these type of evictions, it was a perfect storm for violent retaliation. I don’t condone violence, but I can understand why those involved felt it necessary.
Let’s hope that, the working people of Ireland through peaceful protests, gain more momentum and achieve change.