Why Delaying Eviction to May 4th Was Seen as a Victory by Grangegorman Squatters


We thought it might be useful to explain why yesterdays ( 27 March ) High Court injunction against the Grangorman residents was seen by them as a victory. After all the NAMA-appointed receiver might have failed on Monday with the sudden attempt to evict the residents with force & fear but on Friday the High Court did grant the injunction compelling them to leave but importantly delayed execution until 4th May.

The receivers profile on the Ernst & Young site gives you a hint of the David v Goliath nature of what is playing out, his experiences we are told include dealing with "transactions [which] ranged in value from £1 million to £7 billion in value and spread across over ten countries globally"

In other words he deals with sums of money which are meaningless to the vast majority of us as even if we won the European Lottery we'd only approach a fraction of the amount concerned. If you spent 40 years working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year in a minimum wage job and never spent a penny you'd have a bit over 700,000 euro. Too small a sum for him to bother with.

The law everywhere but particularly in Ireland is written to ensure the continuation of inequality. Once you strip out the good stuff about not murdering people or breaking red lights you are left with a set of rules, backed up by almost infinite force that exist to ensure the rich keep their wealth while everyone else is poor.

So going into the court the residents knew that even though
1) the site had been lying derelict for years,
2) they had not only been living there but had carried out extensive repairs on building and made the space much safer than they found it
3) the receivers own court paper admitted they had no plans to develop it (never mind planning permission) but simply wanted to get the residents out to put it back on the Monopoly board,
4) they had been the target of considerable force and intimidation

They knew that despite all these things which really should leave them in control of the site there was no chance in hell the court would grant that to them. It's didn't help that the particular judge is well known for handing down injunction for the state & the wealthy to quell ordinary people but realistically even a different judge would have been enforcing laws that are designed to keep the rich rich.

The residents went to court knowing that the only possible outcome would be the granting of the injunction, there would be no victory on that question. Indeed if that was what was being fought over it would have been a waste of time attending.

Instead that goal was to seek a delay in the implementation of the injunction.

The Independents report on the case explains
"Stephen Bedford, who along with James Sutherland and Gréum Ná Hearadh had appeared in court to oppose the receiver's application, said he believed he and others at the premises should be granted the same courtesy in relation to notice of eviction that anyone with a rent agreement has.

A number of people who live there were currently "out of the country or the county" and would need time to organise their affairs including the removal of furniture and belongings, he said."

All very reasonable but they were far from sure the court would see it that way. In fact just before the court issued its finding there was panic at Grangegorman as a Public Order Unit vehicle was sighted nearby and the rumour mills turned that into the presumption that the court had ruled and the Garda were already on their way to evict them. After all the experience of Monday has been that without any warning some 40 men, including some Garda had smashed their way into the compound at 6.30am. The worst case sceanerio they feared from court was the Judge allowing an instant repeat of the same and that at 5pm on Friday they would come under another massive assault, but this time with the legal documentation to remove them. Its more than a little scary to be think a huge gang of men are about to smash into your home to drag you out.

What they had hoped for was a couple of weeks to prepare. They knew that the state was in a bit of a tricky position because of the participation of Garda in the assault on Monday. The video we recorded of this went viral afterwards, even being published on Al Jazerra. ( see https://youtu.be/4R1CHSIUFno ) But also because the very different treatment of the ex multi millionaires at Gorse Hill who had just been granted an extension allowing them to stay could make for a rather revealing comparison of how power works.

What the residents in court argued for and to the surprize of everyone actually won was to be treated in a similar way to anyone else facing their landlord wanting to get them out of their home might. That is to be given the sort of period of time that the law provides for tenants to makes other arrangements. The shortness of that period demonstrates the lack of protection tenants have against greedy landlords but in the Grangegorman context it was certainly a significant win in comparison with what might be feared.

We don't know if it sets a precedent for other squatters in similar long term situations facing eviction. It certainly should and if it does it would be the start of a significant deterrent to the common practise all over Dublin of property speculators buying up blocks of buildings and leaving them derelict year after year. That would be a huge gain for tenants and people seeking to buy their own houses as the result would be speculators developing property rather than hoarding it and much more accommodation becoming available.

Indeed that deterrent is part of the reason squatting has had a strong legal base in some countries although in the last 20 years speculators have managed to significantly role this back. But in Dublin today with its explosive mixture of high rents, a severe housing shortage and huge amounts of derelict property held by speculators the creation of a reasonable period to move on could transform the city in an extremely positive way.

That is the possible meaning of yesterdays victory and why people were so delighted at what may have simply seen to be bad news, the loss of their homes on May 4th.