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Gardai say removal of protesters by men in balaclavas was 'a peaceful eviction'

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 12/09/2018 Amy Molloy

Activists subsequently stood outside the building to chant in protest at the eviction, before marching down O’Connell Street towards Store Street Garda station. © Provided by Irish Independent Activists subsequently stood outside the building to chant in protest at the eviction, before marching down O’Connell Street towards Store Street Garda station. Gardaí have insisted that the removal of protesters from a building by a group of heavies wearing balaclavas was "a peaceful eviction".

Last night, activists who were defying a High Court order to vacate a property on North Frederick Street in Dublin were forced out by a group of unidentifiable men.

Gardaí have come under criticism as members of the public order unit - who also had their faces covered - stood in front of the building while the group carried out the eviction.

Five activists were arrested for public order offences, with two due to appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice on October 2.

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A garda spokesman said gardai's "only role in the proceedings was to prevent a breach of the peace. The eviction itself was peaceful.

"These are fire retardant hoods and are part of the safety equipment provided to members of the public order unit. Garda numbers identifying the Gardaí are visible on their uniform."

They did not respond to queries about who the men in balaclavas were working for.

Four people were later hospitalised following the incident, according to a statement released by Take Back the City, a network of 18 grassroots activist groups who are "working together to take direct action" against Ireland's housing crisis.

One man sustained injuries to his hand and had to be treated in the Mater Hospital.

Another man suffered a head injury and concussion.

The group of heavies arrived at 34 North Frederick Street at around 7pm yesterday evening in a van with no front number plate and a UK registration at the back.

Dozens of activists gathered outside the building to protest against the eviction. They then marched to Store Street garda station following the arrests of four men and a woman.

The activists were removed from the property at 34 North Frederick Street, as they had been defying a court order to remain in the building for a number of weeks.

The order was issued on 28 August, when the High Court ordered that all persons occupying the house vacate it by 2pm the following day.

Mr Justice Michael Quinn granted Patricia Ní Greil, the owner of 34 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1, injunctions requiring persons unknown to vacate and cease trespassing at the four-storey building.

In an affidavit posted on the door of the house, Mr Colm McGreal, the father of the owner, said they intend to transform the property into a guest house.

Mr McGreal has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Take Back the City has organised a rally to take place at 5.30pm this evening outside the property.

The group has now occupied three properties in Dublin city centre.

On Saturday, at least 100 people gathered on O'Connell Street in the city centre and marched towards a vacant property in Belvedere Court.

The property has now been occupied with banners and posters hanging from the windows.

A legal notice was today served on protesters, ordering them to vacate the property by 6pm tomorrow.

Conor Reddy concussion © Independent.ie Conor Reddy concussion The notice was issued on behalf of the company MJH Property Management Ltd.

Activists also took over a property in Dublin’s Summerhill Parade in early August in response to the eviction of up to 120 tenants with only 48 hours notice.

They were told they had to leave a number of houses on Summerhill Parade in May for "fire safety reasons".

The properties are owned by Pat O'Donnell & Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan, the trustees of which are PJ O'Donnell and Peter McLornan, who were granted a High Court injunction to have the property vacated.

Activists then turned their attention to 34 Frederick St, which has no connection to the Summerhill properties.

Organisers of the protests say they want: "To continue to highlight the causes of this housing crisis, one of which is land hoarding and speculation by private owners."

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