Members of the Cork branch of the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) face eviction from a building the group has “liberated.” In a statement released on their Facebook page on October 26th the group stated that their “liberated building had its door kicked in by a stranger who claimed to be the owner.” The CYM had liberated the building back in July and, finding it in disrepair, cleaned the building up so that members, many of whom had no alternative, could live there. One member of the CYM, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Express that this ‘liberation’ was done in part because they could not afford rent elsewhere, but also as a political statement.
On the morning of the 26th, the Express learned, only one of the members was home when they heard footsteps coming up the stairs. A person claiming to be the landlord then entered the room the CYM member was sleeping in, having reportedly kicked the front door in, and allegedly threatened them, telling them that An Gardaí Síóchána were on their way.
The building, the location of which has been confirmed to the Express, has been vacant for around ten years, and was apparently under investigation by Cork Council as being potentially derelict. When speaking to the Express the CYM member they confirmed that the state of the house would fit the description of being derelict – the walls, they claim, were black with damp, furniture present was falling apart and the place was “frankly a mess.” There was electricity present in the building until it was turned off on the same day the landlord allegedly kicked the door down.
At the time of writing, there are two UCC students living in the building with the CYM. One of them, who has also asked to remain anonymous, gave a statement to the Express: “I’m from a low-income family and because I’m in the set radius of Cork by 1 mile, a proper SUSI Support has been denied to me. College has always been a chance to improve your family’s circumstances, but my family and others’ have been priced out of this opportunity by unscrupulous landlords with no state or college developed alternatives.” An article published by the Express in August found that student accommodation apartment complexes were all sold out before CAO offers were given out, and prices of private student accommodation (i.e. rooms in houses) in Cork had risen by at least €50 per week since 2013. The student continued: “Now our home has been invaded, and the alleged and undocumented owner of a house that was derelict for almost ten years before we came wants us out on the street.”
Luke Field, UCC graduate and Labour Party representative for Cork City South West, spoke the Express about the situation: “First of all, it needs to be said that nobody should have to resort to squatting, but we do have a rampant housing crisis in this country that has gone unaddressed. And under the circumstances I don’t think anyone should be surprised that some people will look at this and go ‘maybe squatting isn’t the least worse option available to me’ and I think that’s quite understandable in many respects.” He continued, “I know the residents in the area of [the building], and they always bring up the issue of derelict buildings, and of the building in question being allowed to lie derelict in particular. None of them are happy with having derelict buildings around, they think it is damaging to their neighbourhood, they’d much rather have somebody living in these buildings. While I couldn’t tell you how they might feel about having a squat in their midst, I couldn’t imagine they would be more unhappy with a squat than they are with the derelict buildings.” Mr.Field noted that, to his knowledge, the building hadn’t been in use for “at least six years” so the group’s presence in the building was unlikely to be disruptive to any potential owner(s), especially as there are no reports of anti-social behaviour having taken place in the building since the group moved in approximately three months ago.
According to Cork City Council’s Derelict Sites Register, there are around 69 properties that have been judged to be derelict within 4 kilometers of UCC, with 10 of these sites being under a kilometer away from the University. At the time of writing members of the Connolly Youth Movement are still present in the building.
If you’re a student, and have found yourself without a permanent home or with financial issues, the Student Budgetary Advisor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would also note that you can avail of local charities like Cork Penny Dinners, many of which are within walking distance of the college.
(note: in the interest of protecting the students’ identities, we have used a stock image of a derelict building above. It is not necessarily representative of the situation in question)