Roscommon Counter-Eviction – Inevitable and Necessary

An unremarkable farm near Strokestown, Co Roscommon was the scene of a most remarkable event earlier today (December 16), when a large number of unidentified individuals forcibly evicted an eight-strong private security crew from the  premises.   Vehicles belonging to the security personnel were also destroyed in the action.  Some of the allegedly injured security personnel were taken to hospital while a guard dog belonging to them was also put down due to injuries it sustained. 

On Tuesday last (December 11th) the farm was the scene of another eviction, when a group of black-clad-men from the same private security company evicted three siblings aged in their 50s and 60s.   It has been reported that the farm has been farmed by the same family for three generations.

This first eviction was carried out in broad daylight with the full support of the state.   Videos that show a local man being attacked and injured as Gardaí watch on have since gone viral on social media.  Ironically it later emerged that the injured man was himself a former member of ‘The Force’.

While the exact details of the situation that led to the court-authorised eviction are not yet widely known, it appears that KBC Bank, or a receiver acting on behalf of the bank, moved to foreclose on both the farm and the home of the family in question.  To a large extent the details of the individual case are irrelevant.  No matter what monies are owed by the family, there is no excuse for the state facilitating a private security company violently evicting  them onto the street a fortnight before Christmas.

The events of the last five days are symptomatic of much wider problems facing Irish society – of chronic personal indebtedness; of parasitic private banking practices; of a dysfunctional agricultural sector; of homelessness and of the state taking the side of capital over the citizen.   In this case it appears that all of these problems combined in a perfect storm that was captured on video and broadcast on social media. 

Over the last number of years thousands of families have found themselves facing the prospect of eviction because they were unable to repay the monies they had borrowed during the Celtic Tiger era.   The vast majority of these families took out their mortgages in good faith, in the honest belief that they would have the means to make their repayments. 

That honest belief was based on the endless assertion by the political establishment that the good times would last forever – that the Celtic Tiger was going to be the first boom in capitalist history that never ended.  The very worst case scenario, they were told, was a ‘soft landing’ of the property market and wider economy. 

The private banks played their part in selling this falsehood, recklessly providing mortgages of 100% and higher.   Families looking for small home-improvement loans were systematically encouraged to re-mortgage their homes to fund extravagant extensions.   

Businesses people, including farmers, were similarly duped into taking on large debts to expand their operations in the apparent miracle economy of the early years of this century.

When the inevitable crash happened, wages were slashed and unemployment soared, leaving many unable to repay their debts.  And when the repossession court cases began the friendly, generous banks weren’t quite so friendly or quite so generous anymore. 

When faced with the combined might of the private banks, the courts and the Gardaí many families have opted to ‘voluntarily’ surrender their homes.   Those that have refused to do so have been forcibly evicted, invariably by heavy-handed private security operating in tandem with the courts and the Gardaí. 

This is the decade long backdrop to the action that was carried out in Roscommon in the early hours of this morning.   That someone, an organisation or a community would eventually push back against the banks and the state was inevitable.  That it happened in a tight rural community in the West of Ireland should come as no surprise to anyone that has read a single book of Irish history. 

The Land War of over a century ago was fought with tactics very similar to those witnessed in Strokestown today.  Back then rural communities were left with no other choice in the face of a state that cared more for the rights of the landed gentry than the human rights of their desperate tenants.   The tactics deployed by The Land League and others who stood with the tenants during the Land War may not have have been pretty or always fair, but they were absolutely necessary.

A necessary shot has now been fired across the bow of the private banks, the political establishment and the institutions of the Twenty-Six County.  The policies of successive governments, including the current one, have placed the interests of capital – both domestic and foreign – ahead of the interest of citizens facing extortionate rent, ruthless banks and exploitative landlords.  If those policies do not change, it seems inevitable that more people will find their own ways to strike back against injustice and thuggery.