independent

Thursday 5 December 2019

Coolcotts activist unveils new housing plan

Organisers Gary O’Brien and Brian Leeson at the Up Housing meeting in Coolcotts Community Centre
Organisers Gary O’Brien and Brian Leeson at the Up Housing meeting in Coolcotts Community Centre

Simon Bourke

A revolutionary new plan to solve Wexford's housing crisis has been unveiled at Coolcotts Community Centre by local Éirígí representative, Gary O'Brien.

Having grown up in a one-parent household, one in which money was hard to come by, Gary understands the current housing crisis and its impact better than most.

And Gary (29) is using those experiences to help those in his local community in Coolcotts, taking it upon himself to assist those in need, supporting them with their cases, campaigning on behalf of people who have no one to fight their corner.

'I've been engaged in housing activism, helping people out with cases, people that are homeless, people that are soon to be homeless,' he says.

'I grew up in Belvedere Grove so I know the ins and outs. My father died when I was young, so I was in a one-parent family and there wasn't much money coming in. I come at this from a grass-roots perspective side of things,' Gary explains.

A Republican since his teens Gary gravitated towards Éirígí (which means 'Arise'), a socialist political party whose ultimate aim is to create a new Irish Republic, joining them seven years ago.

Since then Gary, who is a father to three young children, has been involved in a number of protests around Wexford, his priority the ever-increasing housing crisis.

To that end Gary and Éirígí Party Leader, Brian Leeson, presented their Universal Public Housing (UP Housing) plan at Coolcotts Community Centre, a scheme which they say has the potential to 'transform Irish society for the better'.

According to Éirígí, UP Housing would ensure everyone who needs a home would have a legal right to rent one from the state and would be open to any individual or family that needs a home, regardless of their income.

But how would such a widescale scheme be funded?

'The billions of euro of public money that is currently being handed to private landlords through schemes like HAP would instead be used to provide families with secure, affordable permanent homes,' explained Brian. 'The state has the land, finances, expertise, legal powers and economies of scale to make UP Housing a reality. The only thing missing is the political will to make it happen.'

A delivery driver by trade, Gary said he is focused on getting Éirgí's message out there, with further presentations throughout the county planned in the upcoming months. He has also said he could be 'possibly persuaded' to run in next year's general election.

In the meantime he will continue to assist those in his area in whatever way he can.

'I was a member of Wexford Housing Action Group but time constraints meant I had to leave. But I'm still active for homeless people in the area, helping them get emergency accommodation.

'There's a need for grassroots action, there's only so much councillors can do, it needs someone to fill the vaccuum.'

Wexford People

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