Thousands take part in Raise the Roof protest.


THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE gathered outside the Dáil today in the latest demonstration over the housing crisis. The protest included groups from unions, political parties, community organisations, colleges all across the country and activists involved in the recent Take Back the City movement.Síona Cahill, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, said more than 6,000 students had joined the protest today.
She told the crowd that they were tired of “damp, rundown and regularly overcrowded conditions”.“This is the social justice issue of our generation, the locked-out generation,” she said. Keith Troy, a construction worker on a zero-hour contract also spoke at the rally. He said workers in his situation “don’t know if they’re working from one day to the next” and have constant uncertainty about paying their rent or mortgages. He said Irish citizens “need to unify more” in order to force reform in this area.“We need everybody and their dog out on the street.”Homeless campaigner Peter McVerry actually did bring his dog with him. He told the crowd they were both there “to fight for human rights”.

“This protest is not just about homelessness, this protest is about housing. I guesstimate that there are at least half a million people in this country whose housing situation is causing them serious distress. That includes homeless people, it includes people who are living in overcrowded households, people who are living with their parents because they cannot afford to move out, people living in poor quality private rental accommodation,” he said.Speaking about his reasons for attending the protest, Brian Desmond said the apartment block he lives in was purchased by a vulture fund four years ago.“I’ve seen over past four years how much they have upped the rent, that people are being displaced, pushed out, the community is suffering,” he said.“It’s unsustainable for me and my family and there’s no Plan B as far as I can see from the government. I think everybody needs to become a collective and it’s a civil rights issue at the moment, we’ve sold off out the country to companies who are just trying to make a profit.”
‘True colours’
The protest today coincided with a debate in the Dáil on a private members bill on housing drafted and signed by 47 TDs from Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, Solidarity, Social Democrats, Labour, the Green Party, Independents4Change and others.
The motion calls for:
A declaration of a housing and homeless emergency;
A dramatic increase in capital spending on housing to €2.3 billion in Budget 2019;
End evictions into homelessness;
More aggressive measures to bring empty properties and unused building land into use for housing;
Real rent controls top achieve affordable rent;
Increase the proportion of public and affordable housing in private developments.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the protest and debate will “reveal the true colours of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail when it comes to the housing emergency”.He said only a “mass movement of people power, of the homeless, of housing applicants, of workers, of students and young people affected by this crisis”, will force the change of policy that is needed.