On Tuesday morning (March 2004) the second best kept secret of the Dublin libertarian scene came to an end when the council turned up to evict 16 Leeson street. Squatted in the aftermath of the violent eviction of the Disco Disco building at 42 Parnell square last summer No16 has been the focal point for lots of activity ranging from theoretical discussions to organic gardening. Today the eviction attempt was defeated.
The council turned up at 10:45 when around 9 of the occupants were home but council vans had also been seen outside the previous day. Although council officials later claimed not to realise the building was occupied they made quite an effort to break in. First they tried to break down the upstairs door but after a while those inside heard a "it must be braced" and the council personnel retreated to confer. Then they climbed down to the basement and had a go at the basement door, failing to knock the door down those inside heard a "we'll have to take the panels off the door". By the time the council had smashed in the first panel people had started to arrive outside to resist the eviction.
It turned out the council personnel was not keen to have their photos taken and they beat a retreat to their vans. After a while a squad car arrived and two Gardai ascended the steps to the front door. They were also not keen on having their photos taken. After hearing what was going on they declared there was nothing they could and headed off leaving the council personnel to scratch their heads.
By about 11:45 the crowd of supporters outside no16 had grown to 40 or so and half a dozen journalists had also shown up. A council official ordered two of the council workmen down to the cellar door to repair the damage that the council had done by screwing a sheet of plywood over the hole bashed in the panels. And then they drove off leaving us all outside.
The front door opened and most of the 40 entered the building to join those inside. Books, guitars and other equipment that the occupiers were worried might be damaged in an eviction were taken out of the building for storage elsewhere.
Number 16 was occupied August 8th 2003 by a group of young people who "needed a place to live". Like a lot of us they were finding it "too expensive to rent anywhere in Dublin". In the months that followed they opened their home to a huge range of activities ranging from anti-war meetings, to Spanish lessons, to organic gardening, to bicycle repair to a women's group.
The building itself has been abandoned for over a decade, its owner is South Africa and apparently uninterested in its upkeep. The council got pocession of it as an abandoned dwelling but as far at can be told they have no plans for it and are only interested in stopping other using it.
On this occasion the eviction has been defeated. The council should now follow the legal route of trying to get an eviction order; they are unlikely to fool anyone at this stage by pretending not to realise that it is occupied. However as the Disco Disco experience shows the Gardai simply turn a blind eye when landlords carry out illegal evictions and although the council are now less likely to follow this route it cannot be ruled out.
The speed at which 40 people were willing to walk out of work or college this morning to support the occupation demonstrates the useful function no16 has played over the last 7 months. Building on this sort of solidarity can help to prevent future evictions as well.
Such are the property laws that it is perfectly legal for millionaire developers to keep building empty for years while thousands are homeless. Enquiries into 'certain irregularities in the planning process' may take years but the eviction of those who have housed themselves can take place in minutes. The occupation of No16 is the threat of a 'dangerous example' that rather then pay huge sums of money to the property speculators for the housing and space related services we all need we can instead simply take over those buildings they are hoarding to keep prices high.
Press release from the Magpies (and discussion on indymedia)
Cleaning up the squat (photo story posted to indymedia by inhabitants)
Inside the Leeson Street squat after it had been renovated (photos posted to indymedia by inhabitants)
Magpie Collective celebrate 8 months of squatting on Leeson Street (photos posted to indymedia by inhabitants)
Dublin Corpo Raids Empty Magpie Squat (the squat was abandoned in late April, short afterwards the Corpo finally managed to break the door down)
First published on the WSM site, March 2004