Angry demonstrators objected to the staging of the regular Allsop auction held in The Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green yesterday morning. The auction, which involves the sale of a large number of distressed properties, was cancelled after a group of about two dozen protesters made it clear they would not allow it to proceed without interruption.
They included members of a number of organisations including Defend Our Homes and People for Economic Justice, although the protest was led by colourful businessman Jerry Beades who is chairman of the campaign group, Friends of Banking Ireland.
The Fairview-based developer, who is a former member of Fianna Fáil’s national executive and friend of former taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been involved in a string of High Court cases in recent years where he has been pursued by a number of banks over unpaid loans.
Amid chants of “treason” and “Ireland is not for sale“, Mr Beades, who was carrying a copy of the 1916 Proclamation, directed his anger at the auction staff based on a podium, while also encouraging potential bidders to go home.
“A British firm is doing the dirty work of Irish bankers,” he shouted angrily, pointing out the irony of the proceedings taking place in the building where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922.
His comments were greeted with large applause by his supporters who taunted employees of the London-based estate agency. However, some other attendees expressed outrage at the anti-British sentiment voiced by some protesters.
“It’s you who are the disgrace,” said one middle-aged woman said to the group.
Ken Mulvaney, an Irishman now based in the US, said he had flown in from Florida yesterday morning especially for the auction in order to bid on potential investment properties.
“It’s a disgrace. It’s not the fault of the auctioneers. I understand both sides but the repossession of properties has happened down through history. These properties are going to be sold anyway,” said Mr Mulvaney who comes originally from Dublin.
The protesters received support from three independent TDs, Michael Healy-Rae, Tom Fleming and Mattie McGrath who attended the event.
“People are feeling aggrieved because their family homes are being taken from them. I believe what happening is wrong. The banks should talk to these people,” said Mr Healy-Rae.
The protesters interrupted proceedings just after it was announced that the first lot, an apartment in Dublin’s Parnell Street, had been withdrawn. A man who claimed to be the owner of a pub for sale in Co Longford addressed the large attendance and reminded them that Charles Stewart Parnell had advised others about buying property on the backs of those who had suffered.
At one stage, Mr Beades urged those attending the auction to leave, as he warned that proceedings might get “unpleasant” if attempts were made to force protesters to leave the building. Although gardaí were called to the scene by hotel staff, they did not directly intervene in the protest and no arrests were made.
A spokesperson for Allsop said the decision to cancel the auction was taken in the interest of public safety.
He criticised the intimidation and racism directed at the company’s staff and described the protest as “unlawful and ugly.”
The spokesperson pointed out that other demonstrators had made their point in a peaceful and lawful manner at several of the 11 previous auctions staged at the same venue by Allsop.
The company said it would continue to offer properties for sale either by public auction or other means, although it has set no date for any future event.