Homeless rally in Dublin draws more than 10,000 people

People gather outside Leinster House in Dublin during a Raise the Roof housing rights protest. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather outside Leinster House in Dublin during a Raise the Roof housing rights protest. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Students, families, single parents, members of the travelling community and the homeless stood shoulder to shoulder with campaigners and activists in a mass demonstration over the housing crisis facing the Republic of Ireland.

The huge demonstration in Dublin drew crowds of over 10,000 people, almost the same number of homeless people in the Republic.

The Dublin government has been facing intense pressure to take immediate action on housing and increase investment in social housing.

The escalating problem has seen protesters occupying buildings and vacant properties as well as rallies and protests being held in Dublin.

Today's protest has sent a strong message to politicians in Fine Gael that protesters and the housing crisis is not going away.

Trade unions, students, homeless charities and campaign groups were united in their call for radical changes to the government's housing policy.

Politicians from eight political parties stood outside Leinster House in support of the rally while the Dail debated a motion on homelessness and housing.

Protesters and activists, from the young and elderly, walked from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House where thousands of people spilled across Garda barriers and into side streets.

Map by Azimap

Simon Haslam, who has been homeless since 1997, slammed the system as a "disgrace".

"I've be spending six months in one hostel then another six months somewhere else," he said.

"When you go into a hostel you get a key worker for six months then you get shipped on to somewhere else.

"I've three kids who I can't raise myself because I don't have a house for them and can't spend weekends with them and do the things that fathers should do.

"The government need to hear our voice and recognise that we are not going to go away."

Noel, aged 40, has been homeless since July last year after a breakdown in his relationship.

Noel, who does not want his surname published, said he is forced to ring hostels for a bed everyday.

The Dublin man said that after developing a problem with alcohol, he lost access to a 24-hour bed.

He added: "It's tough but a lot of the services are very supportive, the soup runs do fantastic work. Life would be a lot tougher without those volunteer services.

"The turnout today has been amazing and we appreciate because it shows it is hitting home just how bad it really is."

Aisling Hedderman, a housing activist who has been struggling to get secure accommodation for the last 15 years, is also a leading member of campaign group, Take Back The City.

She spent 15 years renting in the private sector before she was made redundant from her job in 2007.

In a bid to find work, she went back into education and gained qualifications, however was still not able to secure a job.

"Everyday I feared homelessness and this created depression and my mental health became low," she said.

"As I tried to access services I soon found there were no services that reflected the help I needed.

"We are here today to support a motion put forward to the Dail because of persistence of privatisation of housing stock.

"Everyday we talk to people who are affected and it's clear it is not just the minority groups who are effected, but all of us."

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry took to the stage with his dog, Tiny, to speak out against the escalating problem.

He said: "This protest is not just about homelessness, this protest is about housing.

"I guesstimate there at least half a million people in this country whose housing situation is causing them serious distress.

"We have a housing policy that is effecting a huge number of families from all social groups, except the very wealthy.

"The housing policy isn't working.

"When Rebuilding Ireland was produced over two years ago, every single day since then we have seen record numbers of homeless people and record rents and price of housing increasing."