Ireland is facing an almost unprecedented wave of evictions, but the Dublin government has chosen to deal with the problem by deflecting attention away from the issue.
Official figures have revealed that over 9,000 eviction notices were issued in the second half of last year, and over 7,000 households have eviction dates looming in the coming weeks and months.
Landlords are seeking rent rises of up to 50% as an extreme shortage of housing has seen rudimentary furnishings shoved into offices, sheds and shops in an attempt to cash in.
High rental income and high house prices, and the sense of wealth it creates, are major factors underpinning support for the right-wing coalition government. Despite fears of a new property crash, it is determined to continue stoking the market by removing the cost-of-living related restriction on evictions.
With home owning now far beyond the reach that renters can afford, a sudden surge of difficult evictions has raised fears of potential disorder.
One artist’s collage of eviction protests, set against the background of a Famine-era eviction, has crystallised the seriousness of the crisis. However, establishment figures chose instead to condemn the appearance of Gardaí in the images.
In a bizarre exchange which confirmed the one-sided approach of the mainstream media to the crisis, Dublin artist, Adam Doyle, aka ‘Mála Spiosraí’ [Spice Bag], was furiously attacked by editor and broadcaster Fionnán Sheahan for making “politically motivated pieces of art”.
Ignored in the furore was the fact that last month there were 11,742 people, including 3,373 children, in emergency accommodation.
Housing campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said the ending of the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions is the “worst decision” the Dublin government has made. Last month, it voted to allow evictions onto the street, event for vulnerable groups such as cancer patients.
“We have a tsunami of misery coming down the road,” he said.
“We’re talking about tens of thousands of people who are going to be put out of their homes at a time when emergency homeless accommodation is absolutely packed,” he added.
The founder of a housing trust, Fr McVerry predicted a “drip feed of heart-wrenching stories” in the coming weeks.
“This is the worst decision that this government has taken in its lifetime and is going to cause untold misery,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy hit out at the eviction “debacle”. He said there was no plan in place, little emergency accommodation and no legislation ready for the situation as the ban on evictions ended on Friday.
He said that “time and space” is needed to put a safety net in place.
“A failure to act will have catastrophic consequences for households across the country,” he said.
“The government must tell people facing homelessness as a result of their decision where are they meant to go? If they still cannot answer this crucial question, they cannot continue with their chaotic and cruel decision to end the eviction ban.
“Every day that this government continues in office, they are causing more and more damage to people affected by the housing crisis.”
Wayne Stanley, executive director of the homeless charity Simon, said the figures were “very concerning”.
He said that there were “very few options” for families to find new homes, particularly those on low or modest incomes.
“The Simon Communities across Ireland are particularly concerned that this will see homelessness grow in the coming weeks and months even beyond the current shocking levels,” he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the government to reverse its “awful, drastic decision” to lift the eviction ban, despite record high homeless figures and supply issues.
“Landlords, in the final analysis, don’t carry a responsibility to protect citizens, government does, so they need to intervene and they need to intervene quickly,” she said.