Earlier today (June 6) the people of Bluebell, Dublin, mobilised for a community protest which prevented a local family from being evicted from their home. As a bailiff from the Dublin City Sheriff’s office arrived with his Garda escort to take possession of Darren Byrne’s home, they were confronted with a crowd of up to 100 local residents who were determined to prevent the repossession from taking place. Confronted with such a sizable protest, the bailiff beat a hasty retreat from Bluebell.
Darren Byrne, a lone parent, raised two of his children in the family home where he has lived for the last twenty years. Like so many others, Darren and his family have become victims of the economic crisis and the greed of the financial institutions.
A plumber by trade, Darren has been out of work since November 2008. Following his redundancy Darren successively negotiated a restructuring of his mortgage repayments, but then found himself unable to make these repayments. When faced with the choice of paying his mortgage or feeding himself and his family Darren rightly opted for the latter.
Despite Ulster Bank’s attempts to evict Darren and his family, they are determined to fight and stay in their home. In a great show of community spirit the people of Bluebell are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Byrne Family, and will continue to resist any attempt to force this local family onto the streets.
Speaking from Bluebell, éirígí Councillor Louise Minihan said, “Today’s protest was a great success with the local community turning out in large numbers to support the Byrne Family. The fact that upward of one hundred people gathered at the Byrne family home is testament to both the community spirit in this area and the high esteem that the Byrne family are held in.
“That the Dublin City Sherriff retreated in the face of today’s protest just goes to show the power of an organised and determined community. The Byrne family are determined to stay in their home and fight the repossession order. Today’s protest shows the local community is willing and able to stand behind them. For that the Byrne family and the people of Bluebell are to be commended.”
Speaking in relation to the wider issue of mortgage arrears and home evictions Minihan said, “Tens of thousands of families across the country are now unable to make their mortgage repayments. An increasing amount of these families are now facing the very real prospect of eviction, something which often evokes feelings of shame, embarrassment and failure.
“In truth these people are the victims of a morally bankrupt system that considers people and their homes to be nothing more than commodities to be sold, bought and repossessed. It is the bankers, estate agents, landlords, judiciary and politicians that oversee this system that should hang their heads in shame, embarrassment and failure.”
In conclusion Minihan encouraged other families to resist attempts to evict them, “The Byrne family are just the latest of a growing number of families that are refusing to go quietly into the night. They are an inspiration to families across the country who find themselves in similar circumstances. All working people are in this mess together. We have all been forced to pay for the bank bailout so why shouldn’t we come together again to fight evictions by those same banks?
“éirígí helped the Byrne family organise today’s protest and the community response was a powerful statement of intent. I have no doubt that other communities would respond in a similar way, but they can only do so if they are asked. We in éirígí are willing to do what we can to help families that find themselves in a similar position to that of the Byrne family, to assist them in building a community response to what is a community problem. Those who find themselves in such a situation shouldn’t hesitate to contact éirígí.”
On Tuesday night I fell asleep with a heavy heart after hearing the news that the clearance at Dale Farm was likely to start the following morning. I hoped that, overnight, common sense would prevail and a forced eviction would not take place, but I awoke to the inevitable sight of riot police storming the camp at dawn.
For the residents of Dale Farm, and Gypsies and Travellers all over the world, their worst nightmare was finally coming true. “They’re breaking the law,” I hear many of you cry, “It’s green belt land.” And you are right: it is an illegal camp, and if we want to live in a civilised society we must all uphold the law, no matter what background or culture we come from.
But the law is not black and white, and these people have certainly been let down by the system. Legal wrangling aside, the reality is that hundreds of human beings are about to be dragged from their homes and forced on to the roads.
My overriding emotions are sadness and confusion. I’m writing this from a caravan on my father’s land: it is parked here legally, but the memories of countless evictions from my childhood are etched in my mind. When I look up I expect to see the men in Day-Glo coats walking towards me and I’m filled with a sense of dread. I know how the Irish Travellers at Dale Farm feel as their life crumbles around them and they have nowhere to go. Hopeless is the only word that can describe it.
Most people in the UK don’t want them at Dale Farm or anywhere else in the country. Over 90% of those who responded to a recent poll believe a forced eviction is the right outcome. I won’t use many of the sensationalist terms being thrown around by some of the activists and Travellers involved in the eviction, and I don’t think this is a case of ethnic cleansing; but do I know first-hand how unaccepted the nomadic lifestyle is today. It doesn’t matter how quiet, clean or law-abiding you are, if you live in a caravan you are scum in the eyes of most of the British population.
Gone are the days when the government actively tried to defuse the tension and hostility between settled and travelling people. Sites are not being created, and budgets given to councils to do so are being used for other “more pressing” issues. It is a case of: “Not on my patch.”
Basildon council leader Tony Ball pulled out of discussions with the Homes and Communities Agency – who offered land to rehouse the Dale Farm families within Essex and within a suitable distance to the children’s school. In my opinion that was because keeping them within his borough would lose votes, and votes seem to be more important than human welfare.
A peaceful solution was never going to be found because Ball apparently believes that Basildon already has more than its quota of Travellers. Swap the word Travellers with any other ethnic group and ask yourself if that is an acceptable position to take.
For the Dale Farm community the tragic reality remains: they have nowhere to go. As they exit the site they will be greeted by blocked-up tracks and barricaded lanes, parks with trenches dug around them, and car parks with a heavy security presence. They’ll end up in laybys, the children will have no chance of an education, and their quality of life will be appalling. But at least they won’t be in Basildon.
People all over the country cheer the enforcement officers on, relishing the scenes of distress and trauma. I ask: whatever happened to human compassion?
There are unfortunately many sources of debts in which people are ripped off by interest rates, or persecuted for lack of cash. Many debt collection agencies and bailiffs work in tandem. Indeed, often they are just different branches of the same firm both use threatening letters to try to intimidate people.
You don’t have to make it easy for them. If in any doubt get advice. The debt collection agencies often threaten bailiff action. They can never use bailiffs without first taking you to court and obtaining a judgement on the debt. Even then, bailiffs are only used where you don’t keep to the terms of the judgement/repayment agreement. It’s easy to get this varied if your circumstances change, e.g. you lose your job or something.
If you decide you are able and willing to pay off a debt, you can go back to the original creditor. Paying through the bailiffs will cost you more. Only agree to amounts you can afford.
You don’t have to let them in
Bailiffs cannot break into your home to take away goods to recover the debt. They first need to have “walking possession” – either by you having let them in previously, or by having previously gained “peaceable entry”. But they can climb in through an open window. If you live in a flat in a converted house, you could have problems. The street door counts as the front door – so if a neighbour lets them through that threshold, it’s arguable they can then break down the door to your flat. This doesn’t apply in a block of flats with an entry-phone system.
Don’t be intimidated
They’ll lie and say they will attend with the police who can break down your door. Not true -the police may attend, but only to prevent a ‘breach of the peace’, I.e. any threat of illegal violence by either side. 3ut if you offer no violence, there’s nothing the police can do. If cops threaten to break your door down, ring their station and report them’.
You can’t be jailed
Bailiffs will say that if you don’t pay they’ll send the debt back with the recommendation that you be jailed. This is untrue for most debts.
It is only possible to get jailed for non-payment of Council Tax but then only if there’s an extra court case and the judge rules you are “wilfully” refusing to pay, and that there’s no other way of getting what you owe (like from your benefits or wages).
Don’t be fleeced
Many bailiffs will inflate their costs by sending extra letters or charging you for visits to remove property that never actually occurred. They’ll even charge more for these things than are allowed in law. Bailiffs are money-hungry parasites. All bailiffs (except court bailiffs) make their money by collecting a debt quickly. They get a portion of the total debt by way of payment from the council or credit card company. That is why they will demand a higher level of repayment than you can afford, the longer it takes to collect the debt the more it costs them.
- It’s usually best to avoid getting into debt if possible.
- Don’t be ashamed: being harassed over debts is not a private failing, but a public scandal affecting tens of millions of people.
- The above is only meant as a very rough guide. If you have problems visit your local CAB/advice centre or see a solicitor for free. Tel. CAB 0870 1264030 Law Centre 8808 5354