Wednesday 16 October 2019

Scenes of chaos

A protester refuses to move from the top table at the auction.
A protester refuses to move from the top table at the auction.
Cllr Deirdre Wadding, (centre with wine coloured cardigan) during the auction protest at the Ashdown Park Hotel.
Cllr Robbie Ireton at the auction.
Protesters at the auction make their voices heard.
Protesters clash with gardai in the foyer of the Ashdown Park Hotel in Gorey last Thursday.

By Fintan lAMBE

THERE were ugly scenes in Gorey last Thursday afternoon as protesters clashed with gardaí in a local hotel after an auction of a NAMA housing scheme was abandoned.

Video footage of the melee was posted on social media websites after the incident which showed a garda using his baton against the protesters. The incident has been reported to the Garda Ombudsman for investigation.

The 32 unfinished houses and 16 acres of land at Riverchapel Wood were due to go under the hammer in The Ashdown Park Hotel at 3 p.m. It was moved to a larger room, after up to 70 protesters arrived. The auction was then abandoned when many of the protesters began shouting, and some of them sat or lay on the tables that were to be used.

When the auctioneer and representative of the Receiver left the room, the protesters then turned their attention to Labour Councillor Robbie Ireton. 'It was unreal the abuse I got,' he said. 'Never in my 11 years as a public representative have I heard the likes of it. The militant elements attached to these groups leaves a lot to be desired.'

'I had a motion at the Council meeting last Monday asking NAMA to withdraw the auction and negotiate with the Council to buy them,' he said. 'Some of the houses are ready with furniture in them, and people could have been in them by Christmas. The way things went, that won't happen now. I had every intention of standing up at the start of the auction and asking that the property be withdrawn.'

He added that several community housing agencies were there to bid. Cllr Ireton said he was tasked by community groups in Riverchapel to try negotiate with any buyer for the undeveloped land, as it could be used for a temporary community hall, and eventually for more schools.

Cllr Deirdre Wadding, who was there with members of People before Profit said that the purpose of the protest was to stop the auction. She too lodged a motion on the subject at the Council meeting. 'NAMA belongs to the public and these houses should be put directly into social housing. The Council should not have to pay one penny for them,' she said.

'Things did get out of hand,' she added. 'It was unfortunate it went that way. There were a number of different groups there and people feel very strongly about it.'

The gardaí were initially called to a report of an alleged assault on a representative of the receiver. An attempt was then made to arrest a suspect. At this point, a large crowd had gathered in the lobby, and some of the protesters sat down in peaceful protest. Some people then fell on the floor as the crowd surged. The situation then escalated, and the baton was used. More people were sent to the floor, including a garda.

An ambulance and additional gardaí were called to the scene, but no one was hospitalised. Cllr Wadding said she believed the situation could have been avoided with 'a little bit of diplomacy.'

Aislinn Wallace of Wexford Housing Action Group said that they believe the houses should immediately be opened up to ease the housing crisis. 'This was a huge show of how people standing up, can and will effect change,' she said. 'Our aim was to disrupt the auction peacefully and it was peaceful until the gardaí arrived.'

The Garda Press Office confirmed that Gardaí in Gorey arrested a man in his early thirties at the hotel at around 4 p.m. The man was arrested and taken to Enniscorthy Station in relation to an alleged assault. He was detained under Section 4 and was released later that evening. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Wexford People

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