On 1 April the stand-in Minister for Justice, Simon Harris tweeted: “Today’s social media post by a leading member of the main opposition party shows what they really think of the Gardai. The mask slips. It’s offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful to the men and women of An Garda Siochana.”
Harris was referring to Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson who had retweeted an image he captioned “No words needed” from the artist known as Spice Bag or Mala Spiosrai with Gardai from the Strokestown and Frederick Street evictions superimposed on Daniel McDonalds 1850’s ‘The Eviction’.
In the days that followed, Ó Broin was forced by a hostile mainstream media into an embarrassing climb-down and an apology for offence caused.
The use of the term, “The mask slips” is of particular interest.
I was with the McGann family in their home on Tuesday 18 December 2018. They had been evicted the previous Tuesday by ex-British soldiers operating without a license, as security on behalf of an agent for KBC bank. They had regained entry into their home the previous day.
RTÉ’s Six-One news broadcast an exchange in the Dáil earlier that afternoon.
Deputy Pearse Doherty told then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar: “There’s widespread public concern and anger at the manner in which a family was evicted from its home near Strokestown in County Roscommon last week.
The video footage of the incident is shocking, to say the least. It shows a private security firm being given free rein to do as it pleased in evicting a family from its home.
It is appalling that any family would be subjected to the type of treatment visited on this family last Tuesday. It was an ordeal of thuggery inflicted by a group of men acting on behalf of a financial institution while gardaí watched.
That is of significant concern to right-thinking people. What happened in County Roscommon was a disgrace and it was unjustified. It brought to mind scenes from our past when families were evicted and thrown onto the side of the road……We need to ensure we will not see a repeat of the incidents and nonsense we saw on Frederick Street in Dublin in September where people were wearing balaclavas, or the incidents in Roscommon last week and those that followed it. Will the Taoiseach support the legislation we have published today to ensure these bank enforcers can no longer operate without oversight, authority and regulation which have not applied heretofore?”
I witnessed firsthand the expressions of horror from the McGann family as they listened to Varadker in his reply say:
“When it comes to Sinn Féin and the rule of law and public order and condemning violence, it does not take very long for your balaclava to slip.”
Fast forward to the present.
Rossa Fanning SC who successfully acted on behalf of KBC bank to get the McGann family evicted was appointed Attorney General by Varadker in December 2022.
KBC has exited the Irish market. In a statement released last February they said that the Central Bank had approved the transfer to Bank of Ireland all of KBC performing loan assets and a small portfolio of non-performing mortgages.
GS Agencies Limited of Portadown, Craigavon, Co Armagh owned by Ian Gordon, an ex-British soldier who served with the Royal Irish Regiment and the Ulster Defence Regiment who carried out the eviction of the McGann family was subsequently granted a licence to operate in the Republic by the Private Security Authority of Ireland in February 2020.
Retired Garda Kevin Taylor injured during the brutal eviction and Anthony McGann spent 6 months in prison October 2020-April 2021 over their refusal to give an undertaking not to enter the McGann’s home. Colm Granahan served a two month prison term for the same charge.
Tom Dignam (72) from Letterkenny was given a three and a half year jail sentence last January for referring to Aidan Devlin who acted for KBC bank as a ’scumbag who should be hounded at every opportunity’ in addition to other uncomplimentary terms.
David Lawlor, Martin O Toole, Paul Beirne and Patrick Sweeney are currently on trial in the Central Criminal Court on charges of allegedly injuring Gordon, his hired help and dog in an incident at the McGann’s home in the early hours of Sunday morning 16 December 2018. The trial which ran for 12 weeks before Easter is adjourned until 17 April.
The latest data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) shows there were 4,329 notices to tenants to quit issued in October, November and December 2022 during the moratorium on evictions.
2,630 of the notices to quit that were served in Q4 2022 will take effect between April, May and June. This is 60.8% of the total notices to quit served in the last three months of 2022. How this is going to play out in the months ahead, nobody knows. To what extent will the Gardaí be involved?
38,000 people whose mortgages are owned by vulture funds are being hit with huge rises in European Central Bank rates.
Some are now on rates as high as 9.25pc, leaving them no longer able to meet their repayments.
The most recent data from the central bank published last December shows 46,743 accounts were in arrears, an increase of 997 accounts (or 2.2 per cent) over the quarter.
Accounts in long-term mortgage arrears i.e. over one year, accounted for 48 per cent of all accounts in arrears at end-December 2022.
77% of the mortgage accounts in arrears for more than a year are held by vultures. How many of these are going to end in an eviction?
The Irish state has a proven track record in protecting corporate interests.
It’s easy to appear to be upholding the interests of citizens facing evictions if you are speaking from the opposition benches in the Dáil.
Will Mary Lou McDonald – Sinn Féin continue to fight for the underdog if they are elected to government?
Only time will tell!