Housing activists occupy Cork council chamber

Housing activists occupy Cork council chamber

Family homelessness in Cork City has reached a new high, it emerged last night, hours after three housing activists were arrested for occupying the city’s council chamber.

A report to city councillors showed that 62 families sought emergency accommodation in the city last month which is a rise of eight from the previous month. Just over 400 ‘unique individuals’ were in emergency accommodation.

Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould blamed landlords for the rising homeless figures and called for an embargo on all evictions until house building ramps up.

“This homeless crisis is going to get worse until we get housing back on track and that could take two to three years,” he said.

The city’s head of housing, Brian Geaney, said it is a challenge to address but he said that 21 people exited homelessness last month. He also revealed that, since the start of the year, there have been 32 refusals of offers of accommodation from people living in emergency accommodation.

Yes, there is a housing supply issue, but we have a substantial pipeline, with 1,300 houses being progressed by city council on the construction side, and others will be leased,” said Mr Geaney. “The Rebuilding Ireland is a five-year plan and we are making good progress on a development pipeline to meet the council’s targets.

The comments came at a council meeting held amid tight security, with public access to the building restricted following the five-hour chamber occupation earlier.

Housing activists Tony Walsh, Martina Murphy, Jimmy Brosnan, and Derry Kelleher, members of the Cork Housing Action Group, entered City Hall around 11am and occupied the chamber. Council management contacted gardaí, who advised the four that they were trespassing and requested them to leave. They refused.

Later, Mr Kelleher left the chamber to use the toilet and was not allowed back in. Moments later, gardaí moved in and arrested Mr Walsh, Ms Murphy, and Mr Brosnan under the Public Order Act.

They were taken to the Bridewell Garda Station but were released a short time later without charge. Files will be prepared for the DPP. The four attended a rally on the steps of City Hall later where county councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla launched the Housing Rights and Reform Alliance, which he said will support a broad alliance of Independent candidates in next May’s local election.

Mr Walsh and Ms Murphy defended their occupation and said it will help shine a light on the homeless crisis. Mr Walsh said he plans to run in the local election.

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