The contemporary crisis of capitalism has made markedly visible the relationship between finance capital and property speculation, between the concentrated money-power of bankers and speculators and the shaping of the built environment in our towns and cities.
The years from 1995 to 2007 saw record levels of housing construction in Ireland. Construction output went up, land and house prices mushroomed and it seemed as if there was a never-ending bandwagon on which everyone was going to get rich by simply waiting for their pile of bricks to increase in value.
First published in The Irish Anarchist Review 2
A whole new lexicon of terms and vocabulary entered the everyday parlance – terms such as ‘starter home’, ‘property ladder’, ‘first time buyer’; Newspeak phrases such as ‘affordable housing’ were bandied about. Houses and housing estates were advertised for sale by estate agents and property developers with colourful banner headlines and slogans such as ‘live the dream’, ‘live the lifestyle’ – it was almost explicitly stated that even the dreary Irish weather could be by-passed by buying an apartment or house in the latest development. It seemed as if the dream would go on forever. But in mid 2007, disaster struck. With the onset of the world- wide recession, Ireland’s very own property bubble burst with a huge bang and left only destruction behind it. The dream turned to a nightmare for many people and the vocabulary was now dominated by terms such as ‘negative equity’, ‘ghost estates’ and ‘price collapse’.
Housing is one of people's most basic needs. Yet it is a need that the 26 county state  has consistently failed to supply to a significant number of its people. It seems that the Irish housing crisis is permanent, becoming more severe from time to time, but never disappearing. Despite the Celtic Tiger economy and the building boom, waiting lists for social housing continue to lengthen. Over 37,000 people are currently waiting. Are we to believe that this lack of housing is inevitable, that it is impossible to build houses quickly enough to satisfy the demand?
Around lunchtime on April 15th we received word that there was an anti-eviction protest underway on Manor street in Dublin outside a house that had been squatted. A Garda had called at the door that morning and after being refused entrance had said he'd be back later with more Garda. The building had been squatted on and off a couple of times in recent years and was recently re-occupied.
In the midst of a media storm over the flag protests our local politicians have one again nailed their colours to the flag that does not distinguish between green and orange- that of capital and greedy profiteering. The proposal by Stormont minister Nelson McCausland to scrap the Housing Executive originally set up to provide fair allocation of public housing is another pillar in the ongoing savage attacks on our class.
The Fine Gael Ard Fheis took place over the course of last weekend (31st March). While hundreds of politicians reinforced an austerity-laden approach to politics in Dublin’s Convention Centre, about 10,000 Anti-Household-Charge protesters took over the docklands in an electrifying show of strength. This was the final day of the governement trying to force people to register for the tax and by midnight it was clear that the campaigns goal of getting 50% to refuse to register had been met.
Over the past two months the Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes has grown from strength to strength. Since the start of government registration in January, campaign meetings across the country have been packed out. 500 attended a meeting in Cork city, only to be surpassed by a meeting of 700 in Waterford city a week later. Likewise, across Dublin dozens of meetings have been held in parish halls and community centres, all with the clear message of “Don’t Register, Don’t Pay”. Building on this support, the campaign has now distributed nearly 750,000 leaflets explaining the tax and why we must refuse to pay it.
Thousands of people will be forced into poverty and homelessness as Stormont imposes the latest cut backs. Government changes mean young people aged between 24 and 35, who live alone and receive housing benefit face cuts of up to £40 a week, resulting in homelessness or forced into shared housing. These housing cuts are compounded by the lack of social and affordable housing while slum landlords and property developers continue to be subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of millions every year.
Cork city and county Anti-Household Tax Campaign rounded off an excellent eight days' work by holding protests in Ballincollig and outside Cork's City Hall this Friday to coincide with taoiseach Enda Kenny's visit to the south. Following on from the massively successful public meeting in the city last Thursday 26th January, 200 people spent well over 2 hours noisily picketing a Chamber of Commerce banquet at City Hall yesterday evening to let Mr. Kenny know the depth of opposition to the Household Tax in the city. Earlier in the day, another 50 people picketed the Oriel House hotel in the commuter belt town of Ballincollig, where he attended another gathering of business people.
The regressive household tax is yet a further embodiment of the government’s will to make us pay for a crisis we did not create.
Globally, 2011 was marked by a surge in grassroots resistance movements that highlighted the inherently disparate nature of global capitalism, from Tahrir Square to the #Occupy movements that mushroomed their way across the globe.
At home however, the sad highlights of 2011 were job losses, another cruel budget that savages the living standards of honest workers, and a rate of emigration that is comparable only to that of several decades back.