House-hunters and hecklers gather for auction

Triumph and disaster were in evidence at the Allsop/Space property auction, but events began with the imposters.

With more than 600 packed into the room at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin for the first of five distressed property auctions planned for this year, auctioneer Gary Murphy was running through the rules and regulations when a protest broke out.

Before the bidding got under way, the heckling did. Patrick Grant of the People’s Association Watchdog stood up and told those gathered that they should be “ashamed” to be involved in the buying and selling of houses that were only on the market because the previous residents had been made to leave.

The normally unflappable Mr Murphy looked a little perturbed, and even when Mr Grant was escorted outside, the protests from the floor continued.

Next it was a man who would only give his name as PJ. As bidding began on the first of the 96 properties up for auction, he stood up and repeated the charge that those gathered were involved in a shameful display. He too was ushered away.

Both men later said this would be the start of a campaign of direct action, meaning it is unlikely to have been the last time such eruptions are witnessed in this environment.

PJ, a father of four from Co Tipperary, said he had brought his protests to the floor because previous demonstrations outside the event had not proved effective.

“It is not a voluntary surrender,” he said of the properties going under the hammer. “People have been terrorised by the banks. They [auctioneers and buyers] do not care about the human element to all this. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

He spoke of a return to “penal times” and mentioned he himself was only repaying the interest on a €100,000 mortgage taken out in 2005, before he lost his job in construction.

Now involved in the Anti-Eviction Task Force he echoed the words of Patrick Grant, that sheriffs and others involved in families being moved from their homes would be faced down.

Inside, however, there was little if any shame. In all 96 properties went under the hammer, and for the first time a bank — Bank of Ireland — had set up a mortgage stall at the event. There was undeniably at least one good news story. The 55-bedroom Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh in Co Donegal was sold for its reserve price of €650,000 to the man who has managed it for the past 20 years. It had previously been on the market for €4.5m.

Paul Diver said it was “a great day for staff” and they seemed to agree, the hotel having been put into voluntary liquidation some years ago. The prospects for the 50-plus staff and other part-time workers now seems more secure.

This was one of 87 properties sold yesterday. The most paid was €1.02m for a mid-terrace building on Dublin’s Ormond Quay, the lowest the €20,000 that bought a flat in Letterkenny. The arguments over the moral spoils will rumble on.

Breakdown

* 87 properties sold for €12.4m — 19% above the total reserve

* 73 above the reserve price

* 4 sold below reserve price

* 10 sold at reserve price


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