700 demonstrators in Roscommon call for an end to forced evictions

More than 700 people have taken part in a protest in Co Roscommon calling for forced evictions to end.

It comes weeks after a private security firm evicted a family from their farm near Strokestown.

The incident sparked a major Garda operation after a number of people were taken to hospital with injuries and a dog with the security personnel was killed. Two members of the family have since moved back into their home.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Strokestown yesterday where a number of public representatives addressed the crowd.

Pádraic A’Táilliúra Ó Conghaile from protest group Glór na Tuaithe (Rural Voice) said that the public had been left angered at the forced evictions.

“People are really angry at what is happening and this is definitely the start of evictions,” he said.

“The people are very angry about what the Government is doing to them. We must stand firm and the only way we will win is through people power.

“We elected these people in and we can get them out. We paid off the bankers and yet they have thrown these people out of their homes. There are thousands of homes in Ireland at risk of being taken over. It’s scandalous.”

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Ivan Connaughton told the crowd he was there to stand with the people of Strokestown and the people of Roscommon and Ireland.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg what happened here, it’s a national issue,” he said. “I am asking the representatives in Dáil Éireann to stand with the people of Roscommon and Ireland. They need to implement legislation to ensure no person has to leave their home or farm in this country.”

Dan Hoban, from Sinn Féin, said he had not “lost faith” in the Irish people.

“I am proud of you all here today in support of the McGann family,” he said.

“When a crowd came in to this town a short time ago and moved in to the McGann home and forcibly removed them on to the road, it was no crime scene then, but a fortnight after when people went in to reinstate the McGann family it was deemed a crime scene. The power of the people is going to win in the end.”

The protest took place yesterday afternoon as a union representing staff of KBC Bank sought an urgent meeting with management about ensuring their security, but also to discuss approaches to dealing with customers whose loans are in arrears.

The eviction at the Strokestown farm was over debts with KBC Bank, which has had two of its properties in Dublin targeted in suspected arson attacks in recent days. A fire at its Swords branch in the early hours of Saturday happened in similar circumstances to one at its offices in Sandwith St on Thursday night, when accelerant is believed to have been used after a window was broken.

Financial Services Union acting general secretary Gareth Murphy has written to KBC to say some staff who contacted the union are extremely upset and stressed at recent developments.

“KBC must now put extra effort and attention into making sure staff are not at risk”, he wrote in a letter to the bank’s chief executive in Ireland, Wim Verbraeken.

He called for an audit of any roles that might be vulnerable and to put extra security procedures in place to make sure no staff are at risk.

However, Mr Murphy also called on the bank’s senior management to address public anger and concerns about its approach in recent times to dealing with arrears and non-performing loans.

“As a bank you made these loans and so you must take your share of responsibility for ensuring that sustainable solutions are put in place for customers,” he said. “I would call on you to engage with experts in this field, like the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, and address this situation.”

KBC Bank told RTÉ News at the weekend they were aware of the arson incidents and were taking measures to ensure the safety of its people and hubs.

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