Eviction bank targeted by protestors, arsonists

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Branches of KBC bank have been attacked amid increasingly angry protests over the role of bankers in the housing and evictions crises.

A KBC bank building in Swords, County Dublin was the subject of an arson attack on Saturday morning. This is the second firebombing of a KBC building in less than 48 hours. A fire also broke out at a KBC bank building on Sandwith Street in Dublin’s city centre last Thursday night.

The Belgian-owned bank has been at the centre of controversy over its violent evictions of those struggling to repay loans dating from the financial crisis. Most recently, a farming family in Strokestown, County Roscommon was the subject of an illegal and brutal expulsion by a hired gang of loyalists, who were in turn forced out by a “flying column” of anti-eviction activists.

The bank’s headquarters on Baggot Street has been a focal point for protestors, including an angry incident last weekend led by leading anti-eviction campaigner Ben Gilroy, which saw the bank come under direct physical attack.

Politicians have also held peaceful protests against the bank. Independent TDs Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins and Carol Nolan and members of the ‘Land League’ organisation took part in a sit-in protest at the Baggot Street branch earlier this week.

Demonstrators carried a coffin into the bank in protest at how evictions are being carried out.. The coffin, which was labelled with the words ‘We must think inside the box’, was placed on a counter inside the bank.

Offaly TD Carol Nolan said the way KBC had treated their latest victims, the McGann family in Roscommon, “was nothing short of a national disgrace”.

“For every Irish person it’s a stain on our society and shameful that such as thing is occurring”, she said. “It has to stop. It was the Irish taxpayers who bailed them out [after the 2008 crash] and it seems they’ve forgotten that.”

Another protest in Limerick, organised by Sinn Fein, was attended by 20 people. Local SF TD Maurice Quinlivan told the bank that it will “not stand by” and see Irish people evicted from their homes.

He said what happened in Roscommon was “totally unacceptable; that masked people like that can go in and evict Irish people out of their homes. It’s absolutely simply not acceptable and we won’t stand for that”.

Sinn Fein, he said, had put “down a marker” for all banks and vulture funds “that anybody who tries to evict a family from their home against their wishes” will face a national protest campaign.

Other protests include one organised by Republican Sinn Fein, to will take place on Sunday in Strokestown.

Anger has exploded in rural areas at the stark inequalities arising from the 2008 financial crisis, exacerbated by the current right-wing government in Dublin. The violence comes as news emerged that ‘cowboy’ financial institutions whose gambling fuelled the Irish property crash of 2008 are to be repaid in full, and some with large profits.

A government decision to generously liquidate Anglo-Irish bank means that unsecured junior bondholders who invested in the fraudulent firm are to receive 270 million euro. The payout means that some speculators will have profited handsomely from the crisis, despite vows by right-wing politicians that they would receive nothing from the collapsed bank.

The 2008 crisis also shattered the Irish housing market, the continuing effects of which has contributed to a current (estimated) tally of 13,000 homeless, including 4,000 children. The rising numbers of evictions by ‘vulture funds’, who take over mortgages at a discount with a view to ousting borrowers, is a key factor in the surge of Irish homeless in recent months.

A bill to stop mortgages being sold without the consent of the borrower has been launched by Sinn Fein.

“The idea that we allow banks to just sell on to whoever, regardless of who they are, regardless of what their long-term interest is in the State, or how they will deal with those loans in the future without the consent of the borrower is simply not on,” said the party’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty.

“At a time when we see elderly people evicted from their homes in the dead of night and thousands of children living in hotels, this Bill aims to take action and put the power back in the hands of the people.”

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