Empowered by the events unfolding in Dublin, activists from a wide circle of groups in Cork marched from Connolly Hall, down the road and straight into the City Hall building this morning. We did not announce our demonstration, our march or our momentary occupation because the point of this was to create a nuisance, to gather attention and show that we stand united with the residents and activists in Apollo House. Our chants, banners and march were met with huge support from regular passersby, drivers and commuters on the bus. We received signatures of solidarity and words of kindness.
The following statement was read out by one of our activists at the protest, and also released to the media –
Statement of Cork Housing Action Group
Home Sweet Home Cork
Every abandoned building is a home waiting to be made.
Austerity as a policy has been created, encouraged and used extensively in the Irish State by the Fianna Fail, Fianna Gael and Labour parties. A byproduct of this period of austerity has seen a housing crisis of epidemic proportions in our country. This includes visible, invisible and non secure rental tenants. This triad impacts a large portion of the population and has created a culture that accepts its own insecurity. Those affected, include the visible homeless, such as Ireland’s rough sleepers. The invisible homeless, those staying in emergency accommodation, such as hostels, b&bs, couch surfers, or those forced to live with family and friends. And the renters, people living with extortionate, uncapped rents that often dominate family budgets to the exclusion of basic needs like heat or food. Cork has over 55,000 people officially labeled as suffering from food poverty; yet our homeless figures do not reflect this reality.
We believe this is a stark indicator of the economic decisions that people and families are making in the attempt to remain housed in our current period of economic instability. We do not believe the government has exhibited enough concern or practical application of support for Cork’s visible and invisible homeless. We as a group intend to highlight this lack of motivation or competence, through the ability of normal people to stand with their neighbors in times of hardship.
Along with the remarkable and wonderful initiative ‘Home Sweet Home’, we in Cork will stand with Dublins Apollo House and Home Sweet Home Campaign with a solidarity protest.
Idle council buildings should be distributed to those on the housing list who will accept them. Government to divert rent-assistance funds from landlords to renovating/refurbishing houses considered unfit for living.
A cessation of all evictions and repossessions. No family or group of individuals should face the threat of homelessness simply because they cannot pay. Housing should create homes not just profit. We call for an amnesty to those who have faced legal problems because of eviction prevention.
We see that the State assures the power of the landlord, we demand that tenants are given the right of appeal of unfair rents through a mechanism in the Rental Tenancy Board. We do not accept the argument that landlords have the right to raise the rent whenever and however and reject it outright.
We call upon the State to take responsibility for the Housing crisis and adopt a central long term plan to accommodate the population. The market exists to generate profit and we cast this notion aside. Housing is our human right.
That the thousands of empty homes around the country are put on offer to those on housing lists and emergency housing, rather than left rot, collapse and fall into disrepair.
We believe that people who become unemployed or unable to pay their rent should be able to appeal to a government or Tenancy Representative body to have the payment of their rent frozen.
That the State takes the offer of the Credit Union’s assistance in construction of public and affordable housing.
The activists stayed inside the building and spoke to those around. It was interesting to see the confused and also condescending looks that some of the staff inside gave, particularly the manager who looked very flustered. “Next time let us know in advance and we’ll facilitate you” I think I heard? Perhaps he does not understand how protests work?
Apollo House has shone a light on the awful way in which the State deals with housing, be it for the homeless or the invisible homeless. Apollo House has mobilised, inspired and united a huge variety of activists and they are ready to act.
In Cork, we showed our fellow Corkonians that the spirit of Apollo House is here, with us and we’re going to channel it to do something for Cork as well. We are not going to sit idly by as homes are left empty, we are not going to stand idly by as people are thrown to the streets. This act in City Hall building is our message of resistance.
More action will follow.