Rally calls for an end to the housing nightmare

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Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Dublin city centre for a protest today [Saturday] as reports shows that homelessness has reached a new record, and that Irish rental housing and the cost of living are more expensive than ever.

The ‘Raise the Roof’ rally brought thousands out to march through the city centre carrying placards and chanting slogans. Protestors walked from Parnell Square along the south and north quays before holding a rally at O’Connell Street.

Activists called for the construction of more public housing, an end to evictions, more robust rent controls and for a right to housing to be formally inserted into the state’s constitution.

Latest figures from the 26 County Department of Housing (according to a manipulated statistics formula) show there were 10,305 people registered as homeless in Ireland in March, including 3,821 children.

Rents in Ireland have risen for the 27th quarter in a row to an all-time high. One in every 10 households is now spending over 60% of its income to pay rent, which averages at €1,366 ($1,525) per week, with the housing supply lower than ever.

A number of speakers from unions and political parties addressed the crowds at the GPO.

“This campaign is in its early days,” said Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin. “Raise the Roof is becoming an extremely important social movement across the state.

“It has a very clear message: the government’s policy is failing. I think [Minister for Housing] Eoghan Murphy is beginning to feel the heat, and what people today should take from that is that the next event has to be bigger.”

Activist and playwright Emmet Kirwan said people were frustrated and angry at the government for letting down Irish citizens who had been caught up in the crisis.

“We’ve coalesced around a few things,” he said. “We want public housing built by local authorities, strong renting laws, and stopping cuckoo funds and vulture funds from picking over the carcass of austerity policies and the downturn we experienced ten years ago.”

In Galway, where homelessness was relatively rare up to recent years, there are now close to 600 people living in emergency accommodation and 200 of those are children.

“The homelessness and housing emergency continues to spiral out of control,” said Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), one of the organisers of the march. “As long as there is no political will to build public housing on public lands we will see the private market and developers reaping the profits of the ongoing emergency.”

MAKE SACRIFICES - MURPHY

With the government planning to spend up several billon euro on a broadband roll-out for which there is relatively little demand, Minister Murphy’s refusal to spend public funds on building projects is seen as proof that he is in the pocket of landlords and private developers.

His latest suggestion, made on behalf of private developers, that “co-living” -- rented bedsit rooms with a shared kitchen and living area -- could be part of the solution, has not gone down well.

One proposed high-profit development in Dun Laoghaire would see 42 people required to share one kitchen. Dublin’s first co-living space, Node, opened last year on Pembroke Street, filled up quickly with rents from €1,300 upwards.

Defending the projects on Newstalk radio, the Minister said people should be prepared to make “certain sacrifices around space so they can live closer to work at a more affordable rent”.

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