On the first day of 2017 Éirígí sends New Year greetings and solidarity to our members and supporters across Ireland and beyond. Throughout the centenary year of the 1916 Rising our activists worked within their communities to challenge injustice and inequality. From Galway to Dublin and Wexford to Belfast we honoured our patriot dead by continuing the struggle for an all-Ireland Republic that will put the interests of the many ahead of the greed of the few.
In a change from previous year’s, this New Year’s statement will focus on a single issue – namely the privatisation and commodification of housing and the devastating impact that this is having on our people, the economy and the environment.
While there are some differences in relation to housing in the Six and Twenty-Six County states, both jurisdictions are now in the grip of a full-blown crisis that is denying millions of citizen’s access to secure, affordable, suitable homes.
Contrary to the propaganda of the political establishment, the housing crisis has not happened by accident or because of factors beyond the control of those who masquerade as Ireland’s political leaders. In truth, the housing crisis has occurred as a direct result of the deliberate, calculated housing policies of those same ‘leaders’ and successive administrations in Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster.
Homelessness, evictions, substandard housing, over-crowded accommodation, spiraling personal and public indebtedness, ghost estates, rack-renting and extortionate mortgages are just some of the symptoms of the underlying disease of privatised, commodified housing. Until the underlying disease of commodified housing is eliminated we will all continue to suffer from the myriad of symptoms that stem from it.
The state-sponsored exponential growth of the private rental sector over the last decade has resulted in a dramatic escalation in rents and subsequent homelessness. The private rental market now functions as a giant wealth conduit – transferring wealth from those who are income and asset poor to those who are already income and asset rich. This transfer of billions of Euro from the poor to a new landlord class is daily increasing wealth inequality in Irish society, a scenario which is intolerable to all right-thinking people.
Éirígí asserts that all citizens are entitled to secure, affordable and suitable housing as a fundamental right and not as a privilege of birth or wealth. In this regard the Right to Housing must be considered on a par with the Right to Healthcare and the Right to Education. We further assert that it is the primary duty of the state to directly provide all citizens with universal access to high-quality housing, healthcare and education.
Privatised and commodified housing has ended in disaster for everyone except the land speculators, bankers, developers, estate agents, legal professionals, corporate media and other assorted parasitic vested interests that have attached themselves to the provision of privatised housing.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate or short-term solution to a housing crisis that has been centuries in the making. It is also clear that the vested interests that have grown fat off the poverty of others will fanatically resist any attempt to transform the Right to Housing from a slogan into a legally enforceable Right. But these realities cannot be allowed to block the march of progress. The tyrannical reign of the private banker and landlord can, and will, be ended. To fail to do so, is to condemn future generations to lifetimes of inequality, insecurity, rack-renting and mortgage-slavery.
We believe that any campaign to secure the Right to Housing must be built upon the core demand for the state to directly provide ALL citizens with secure, affordable, high-quality, suitable housing. The state has the land, finances, legal powers, expertise and other resources to build and procure housing on a scale that can deliver such Public Housing For All. The one component that is lacking is political will.
Over the coming twelve months and the years that follow, Éirígí is committed to working with others in building a long-term, sustained housing campaign that will deliver the necessary political will to provide all citizens with a secure, affordable and suitable place to call home. In the past year, we have shown that commitment with the launch of our Public Housing For All campaign and our support for local housing campaigns and the #ApolloHouse occupation.
The battle for housing justice, whilst critically important, must of course be seen in the context of the wider struggle for national, economic, social and cultural freedom.
James Connolly once declared that, “The Irish Republic must be made a word to conjure with – a rallying point for the disaffected, a haven for the oppressed, a point of departure for the socialist, enthusiastic in the cause of human freedom.”
As 2017 dawns, we in Éirígí re-state our commitment to Connolly’s vision of a socialist Ireland where the people are sovereign and free from the interference of London, Brussels and Washington.
An Ireland where the resources of the land and labour of the people are used for the collective good.
An Ireland where all citizens are treated as equal before the Republic, regardless of their gender, skin colour, sexual preference, religion or other false division.
An Ireland where all citizens are guaranteed access to high-quality housing, healthcare and education.
In the words of the 1916 Proclamation we advance in ‘full confidence of victory’ and invite our fellow citizens to join with us as we help build a wave of people power that will smash the corruption, greed, cronyism and incompetence that defines the political establishment. Bígí linn.