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26 Nov, 2022 16:15

Thousands rally over Irish housing crisis

Protesters call on the government to provide accommodation, as right-wing media blames immigration
Thousands rally over Irish housing crisis

Thousands of people protested in Dublin on Saturday, calling on the government to address Ireland’s housing and homelessness crises. While the protest has the backing of Irish celebrities, right-wing activists argue the predicament is linked to immigration.

The protest was organized by ‘Raise the Roof’, a coalition of politicians, trade unions, and homelessness charities. The group is demanding that the Irish government build affordable homes, declare a “legal right to housing,” and strengthen tenants’ rights.

Backed by Ireland’s largest opposition parties – Sinn Fein and the Labour Party – and promoted by celebrities such as ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Liam Cunningham and singer Christy Moore, the demonstration came as Ireland faces the combined challenges of record homelessness, huge rent spikes, a dearth of housing and an unprecedented influx of refugees and asylum seekers.

The protest organizers called on the government to increase the supply of housing, including by requisitioning vacant properties, though Raise the Roof’s manifesto makes no mention of addressing the demand side. 

“Ireland does not have the space for the people it is welcoming,” conservative media outlet Gript wrote on Friday. “We lack the houses…and the general infrastructure to support this rate of new arrival. Ireland is, in fact, full.”

By the end of the year, Ireland will have taken in more than 70,000 Ukrainian refugees, at a cost to the state of $642 million. It is estimated that half of the new arrivals are living in hotels, guesthouses, and other repurposed buildings. Meanwhile, a record 11,397 Irish people were left homeless last month, according to figures from homelessness charity Focus Ireland.

In addition to Ukrainians, Ireland took in nearly 10,000 asylum seekers from other countries in the first nine months of the year, the highest figure since 2001. With the total number of foreigners admitted in 2022 exceeding the population of Ireland’s fourth-largest city, Galway, locals in some areas have protested the new arrivals, most of whom came from Nigeria, Georgia, and Somalia.

Hundreds of residents of Dublin’s East Wall neighborhood have picketed a former power utility building after the government moved in 380 mostly male migrants last week. Residents say they weren’t consulted about the plan, and anti-immigration activists have pressed Integration Minister Roderic O’Gormain on why “this wasn’t done for homeless Irish citizens.”

Anti-immigration protests are typically written off by Ireland’s government as the work of a right-wing fringe, with Dublin City Councillor Ray McAdam, a member of Ireland’s governing Fine Gael party, describing the East Wall demonstrations as “the worst of Donald Trump-type politics.”

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