Occupy the ghost estates

Ghost estate in Dundalk, where 1,600 households are waiting for housing

by Shan Van Vocht

While thousands of families languish on housing waiting lists in the south of Ireland large chunks of new housing estates lay unoccupied because ‘developers’ can’t sell them at a big profit or because the developers have gone bust in the financial meltdown.  This is a classic example of how capitalism doesn’t work.  Despite all the propaganda about how well the market works, the reality is that the market is just a thing – it cannot consciously match up needs and resources in order to maximise positive outcomes for the majority of the population.

The Republican Network for Unity has drawn attention to the situation in Dundalk, where 1,600 households are on the housing waiting list.  RNU activists in the town have pasted up posters on a local ghost estate.  The posters ask why there are so many people on the housing waiting list, while the short article on their site notes: “Republican Network for Unity states clearly that housing is a universal right, governments can take over unoccupied properties and make them available for local families if the will is there.”

Good on the comrades for their postering campaign and drawing attention to this obscenity.  However, no government – local or 26-county wide – that is committed to maintaining capitalism is going to infringe on the property rights of capitalists, and certainly not of ‘developers’, a section of capitalists with especially strong and personal links to the dominant two parties in the south since the 1930s.  So why use expressions such as “if the will is there”?

Moreover, why call on the local council to occupy the properties?  Wouldn’t it better to take a leaf out of the book of the northern civil rights movement of the 1960s and organise direct occupations of these empty houses?  Working class people doing things for themselves is always better than trying to get some establishment body to do the business.

One of the great weaknesses of the old Provo politics was substitutionism.  The Army substituted for the masses (and, logically enough, the Army Council often substituted for the Army). Socialist-republicans from the Provo tradition have got to ensure that thinking isn’t simply replaced by a civilian version of the same thing, whereby a local council is substituted for the masses taking action on their own behalf.

Across the south, how about a housing action campaign in which all the socialist-republican groups co-operate to mobilise working class people to take possession of the ghost estates – and the swanky ghost holiday houses for that matter?  While the situation in the six counties is somewhat different, there’s no shortage of unoccupied dwelling space there either, so housing action and occupations could be an all-Ireland campaign.

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Posted on September 18, 2012, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, éirígí, Civil rights movement, Economy and workers' resistance, Irish politics today, IRSP, Political education and theory, Republican Network for Unity, Social conditions, twenty-six counties. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Occupy the ghost estates.

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