Saturday 18 November 2017

Protesters who occupied Dublin show house agree to end their protest in court

Ruth Coppinger (4th from left) and Anti Austerity Alliance group occupying a house in new estate Diswellstown Manor currently under construction
Ruth Coppinger (4th from left) and Anti Austerity Alliance group occupying a house in new estate Diswellstown Manor currently under construction

A group protesting about the current homeless crisis including TD Ruth Coppinger have agreed before the High Court to end their occupation of a showhouse in a Dublin housing estate.

Hansfield Investments Ltd, which is developing a scheme of houses near Ongar, Dublin 15, sought a injunction compelling Deputy Coppinger an all other persons involved in the protest to vacate a property located at Barnwell Lawn in the scheme which had been occupied since the weekend.

The developer, represented by Eoghan Cole Bl, said the protesters had no right to be there and were trespassing at the showhouse.

The protest, the court heard, was part of a campaign to shame the Government to deal with the plight of families who have been made homeless, many of whom have been put up in temporary accommodation.

On Wednesday Deputy Coppinger, following discussions with other protesters, several of whom the court heard have nowhere to go, said it had been agreed to vacate the property and bring the protest to an end.

Deputy Coppinger said the group felt they had taken this particular protest, which she said was at all times peaceful,  "as far as they could." They would continue to highlight the homeless problem by other means. 

The property would be vacated by 4pm on Wednesday, the court also heard.

The action came before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who welcomed the protesters decision to end the occupation. As an undertaking had been given there was no need for the court to make any orders against the Deputy or the protesters, he said.

Ms Coppinger, who represented herself during the brief hearing, said the protest was being carried out because of the lack of social and affordable housing available.

Some of the protesters were in living at different emergency accommodation. The constant movement from one place to another  is severely problematic for adults and in particular children. 

One of the reasons the protest at Barnwell was important, Deputy Coppinger said, was Hansfield Investments is linked to a developer who got a €150m write down from Nama.

The court also heard from another protester Ms Amy Brennan, a mother of two young children who has been homeless for several months after her landlord raised the rent to a level she could not afford.

She is currently  been staying at emergency accommodation. She expressed her disappointment at Taoiseach Enda Kenny's replies to questions about homelessness when she and others in the same situation attended the Dail last week.

She said she was unhappy with the Taoiseach refusal to call a national emergency on homelessness.  "He didn't look up at us," she told the court.

During the proceedings the Judge told Ms Coppinger he was well aware from other cases that have come before the court about the homeless situation, and appreciated the plight of many of the people she represents.

However the only issue the court could deal was if the protesters were asserting any right to the property. The Judge said as this was court of law it could not deal with any wider concerns raised by the protesters. 

Seeking the injunction Mr Cole for Hansfield Investments said the occupation of a showhouse it was displaying to prospective buyers began last Saturday.

It Involved up to 25-30 people on a rolling basis, counsel said.  The Garda were called but the protesters did not leave the house. This resulted in his client coming to court to seek an injunction.

Counsel said while his client acknowledged people's right to protest the issues the protesters wished to highlight had nothing to do with the developer, and the protesters had no right to occupy the property.

Counsel added that the protest was "unpleasant and undesirable" and people living in the neighbouring properties were unhappy about the protest.

This claim was dispute by Deputy Coppinger who said people living in the area were supportive of their action.

The Judge agreed to adjourn the matter which he said could be re-mentioned to the court should any issue arise.


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