Squatter, No. 1
Date:15th June 1969
Organisation: Dublin Housing Action Committee
Publication: Squatter
Issue:Number 1
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Housing and Homelessness

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

16th June 2008

Here is a document of some interest to the left. For the DHAC was one of the activities which symbolised the - as it were - left turn of Sinn Féin in the 1960s. It was explicitly positioned towards agitating against the housing shortages in Dublin in the mid to late 1960s. This sort of populist mobilisation around ‘bread and butter’ issues was crucial to the later self-identification of Official Sinn Féin, and representative of the abandonment of the central issue of combating partition to those who disagreed with the ‘political’ path such as Provisional Sinn Féin (although not entirely, since there were more diverse strands to that latter position than some often give credit). That the DHAC was home to a broader range of members from a wider constituency on the left doesn’t as such undermine either thesis, but perhaps point to it acting as a vehicle for competing, and complementary, approaches. Any organisation that could bring together the late Seán Ó Cionnaith (who I well remember from the 1980s) and Dennis Dennehy had to be, per definition a bit more complex than some histories seek to present.

This short document from June 1969 gives a flavour of the DHAC. Although far from overtly party political, there is no mention of Sinn Féin, it is on all other levels an intensely political document, not least in the attacks on the Labour Party in particular.

We will report on the latest developments in Landlord racketeering, evictions, squatting etc., as well as publicising the numerous successful agitations we are waging on behalf of the homeless and rack-rented workers of Dublin.

And…

The most politically advanced members of the DHAC have taken the ultimate step in the present housing agitation; they have squatted in some of the idle, surplus property owned by speculating Landlord parasites…. Actions speak louder than words and one homeless family squatting in some Rachman’s idle property is worth a bellyfull of promises from the so-called Socialists of Fianna Fail or Labour…

Note the piece on the back page which refers to a questionnaire ‘which we intend to send to at least the Labour Party candidates in the Dublin area….’

One wonders was it sent? Consider this interesting overview  of the history of the DHAC from DR O’Connor Lysaght in 1976 from Arguments for A Workers’ Republic, a great resource in itself, [scroll down]. I can’t say whether it’s entirely accurate, perhaps others can fill in the details.


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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 16 Jun 2008 08:32:53

    Great document.

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  • By: Sean Golden Mon, 16 Jun 2008 10:19:26

    The early days of BICO…there is something about all this in this in the current IPR.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 16 Jun 2008 12:45:17

    There was also a Cork Housing Action Committee..
    were there any similar organisations in say,Galway
    or Limerick?

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 16 Jun 2008 15:17:27

    Denis Dennehy was in the ICO. They were republicans then.
    He squatted in Mountjoy Sq to draw attention to the problem.
    There was a similar org in Dun Laoghaire.
    Housing was much worse then. I remember Padraigh Yeates bring me down Foley st near Connolly station. Truely Dickensian. Ballymun was built to alleviate the problem.
    An org that actually achieved something and caught the support of many layers nad grouping in society.
    Dennehy is dead now. I would regards him as a hero of the times in spite of some of his politics.

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  • By: Ed Hayes Mon, 16 Jun 2008 18:16:46

    According to books by Eamonn McCann and Gerry Adams there were Housing Action committees in Derry and Belfast

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 16 Jun 2008 18:32:21

    Cheers Sean. Interesting reading no doubt.

    Starkadder, I don’t know.

    Jim, can I say again just how great is AFAWR which is now under resources? Dennehy must have been a good guy, whatever his … er… interesting politics… Mind you so was S Ó C.

    That makes sense Ed.

    Ta Garibaldy. It’s a cracker isn’t it?

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 16 Jun 2008 19:35:43

    Ed is right that there were those committees in Derry and Belfast. The Belfast one was, as far as I know, essentially Republican Clubs, while it was the Derry Housing Action Committee that organised a lot of the marches up there, and which was a coalition of republicans and people like Mc Cann, plus independents. Hume et al stepped in to take over it. I think that the involvement of the movement in things like this helps refute some of the sillier notions that NICRA was designed as a secret plot to overthrow the state. Rather it was to radically reform it, while republican involvement would interest people in republican politics.

    Ó Cionnaith was a great man, who throughout his life put his money where his mouth was, and worked tirelessly on behalf of other people. His sudden death was a great loss to his local community as well as to his family and party. It was in fact the comments on his son’s interview with MacGiolla that first led me here I think.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 16 Jun 2008 19:37:21

    Ed is right that there were those committees in Derry and Belfast. The Belfast one was, as far as I know, essentially Republican Clubs, while it was the Derry Housing Action Committee that organised a lot of the marches up there, and which was a coalition of republicans and people like Mc Cann, plus independents. Hume et al stepped in to take over it. I think that the involvement of the movement in things like this helps refute some of the sillier notions that NICRA was designed as a secret plot to overthrow the state. Rather it was to radically reform it, while republican involvement would interest people in republican politics.

    Ó Cionnaith was a great man, who throughout his life put his money where his mouth was, and worked tirelessly on behalf of other people. His sudden death was a great loss to his local community as well as to his family and party. It was in fact the comments on his son’s interview with MacGiolla that first led me here I think.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 16 Jun 2008 20:15:28

    And in fairness to S Ó C, there was nothing shall we say exotic about his hugely sincere and rather admirable brand of socialist republicanism. Tireless is the word that comes to mind.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 16 Jun 2008 20:36:09

    See WBS, I’m not really sure what you mean there, but I will say that we should not forget that it was him who was international secretary for a long time, and that it was the USSR that identified and treated some of his health issues.

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  • By: D.J.P. O'Kane Mon, 16 Jun 2008 21:40:43

    There’s a pretty good novel called _Cry of Morning_ which dates from this era, and includes a lot of stuff on the housing campaigns. This is in relation to the wider changes in Dublin and Ireland in the Lemass years and after. Worth reading if you can find it in the second-hand bookshops in the capital (if there are any left, that is).

    The author, one ‘Brian Cleeve’ concludes by predicting that the future is a ‘red Ireland’. Ah well. . .

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  • By: Sean Golden Tue, 17 Jun 2008 07:35:03

    The future is a “red Ireland” part of a federation of a “Red Earth.” (Gotta stop reading Spartacist Ireland)

    Of course mankind will inevitably produce something better that capitalism.

    I’s gonna take a few more years mind you, though the Nepalese have just set out on that road.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 17 Jun 2008 16:59:18

    I’ve often wondered if we inevitably will. I tend to think technological improvements, human rights, democratisation will lead towards ‘better’ more socially oriented outcomes, but I suspect they could almost equally go in a sort of rightward direction, something akin to the libertarian approach.

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  • By: Jenny Muir Tue, 17 Jun 2008 20:24:53

    I remember meeting Seán Ó Cionnaith when I was doing research in Ballymun in 2002. He was generous with his time and support, and I was hoping to visit him again when I heard he had died, a few weeks after moving into his new flat as part of the regeneration of the area. As Garibaldy says, he lived his socialism – this made him nobody’s fool as far as ‘community involvement’ in the regeneration was concerned. He and Kathleen Maher were both great losses to Ballymun.

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  • By: Irish Left Review · Looking Left No. 4: The Irish Socialist Wed, 29 Jul 2009 09:58:51

    […] cedarlounge also has a great post on ‘The Squatter,’ a publication associated with the Dublin Housing Action […]

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  • By: Budapestkick Fri, 29 Jan 2010 16:33:14

    Is the Squatter archived or is this from a private source?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 29 Jan 2010 17:36:57

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    I got a copy on loan from someone’s private collection. I’m not sure to be honest if it’s archived.

    BTW, just taking uip where Jenny left off, I remember Ó Cionnaith from the WP days… I’d have had a lot of regard for his work in the community.

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  • By: Budapestkick Thu, 22 Apr 2010 20:14:20

    Just to let people know, the Derry Housing Action committee produced a similar thing to this in newsletter form and is available in PRONI along with mainly civil rights material from 1969.I think it was called ‘Reality’.

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  • By: Squat’s That All About? Quick Report From Manor Street. : rabble Mon, 15 Apr 2013 16:56:47

    […] online and you’ll find there’s a rich history of this stuff in the city. There was even a freesheet back in 1969 dedicated to squatting news in the city. Terry Fagan about his memories of  housing struggles in […]

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