Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Occupy Belfast – a (small) protest about housing

Sat 14 January 2012, 5:00pm

Gerry Lynch mentioned Occupy Belfast in a post yesterday. I called past the front of Belfast City Hall just before 1pm today to see the latest in their series of Saturday afternoon protests. I started asking people who were sitting or standing around the railings if they knew there was going to be a protest, or had heard about Occupy Belfast and what they stood for.

There was a mixed reaction, with quite a few people aware of the tents in Writers Square opposite St Anne’s Cathedral, but relatively few able to explain what their protest was about. The panoramic photo below shows the scene in front of the City Hall just after one o’clock.

About five past one, ten or so ‘Occupiers’ arrived. Over the next thirty minutes, numbers grew to twenty five at the most. This week’s theme was to highlight housing issues including evictions, repossessions and empty houses that could be used for the homeless.

A couple of people recounted last Saturday’s Occupy Belfast protest which ended up inside Boots to complain about tax avoidance and the offshore headquartering of this company. (Link to their Youtube video of the Boots protest)

The prayer ministry team – teenagers who’d travelled up to Belfast – were thinking about whether to offer pray for the protesters or the people requiring financial support. With more people stopping to talk to the prayer team than the protesters, Occupy Belfast’s Saturday meet-ups – while highlighting valid issues – are likely to remain fairly low key.

UpdateGerry Lynch has great coverage on the Sammy Morse blog of Occupy Belfast’s well-organised-but-obviously-secretive move to squat in and occupy the old Belfast Stock Exchange, also a previous Bank of Ireland building.

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Comments (18)

  1. chewnicked (profile) says:

    Fairly pathetic stuff. The middle-classes just don’t do good protest. Belfast’s hard won reputation for street protest is being ruined by these middle class muppets.

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  2. jlarkin (profile) says:

    This is a totally unethical piece of journalism.

    Yes, the protest was small. That is not the issue, however.

    The issue is the fact that you deliberately cut out speeches from your recordings to make the protesters look inarticulate.

    As a member of the public who took part in today’s protest and heard those speeches I am completely and utterly disgusted you edited them out.

    It is evident that you set out to not only to discredit Occupy Belfast but in doing so deliberately ignored the reasoning for their protest, and thus the people affected by repossessions, evictions and homelessness.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

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  3. jlarkin – I stand over the post. However, I do take issue with your comment.

    At no point in the post or clips did I suggest the protesters look articulate or try to discredit them. I merely sought to explore whether members of the public were aware of the protest and the aims of Occupy Belfast. Having interviewed Gerry back on 24 October, it was time to catch up with him again and see how the movement had progressed.

    Practically everything I recorded while hanging around the front of the City Hall between 12:50pm and 1.30pm is included in the two clips.

    It’s clear from the sample of people I spoke to (all of which made it into the audioboo) that while quite a few knew there was a camp near St Anne’s Cathedral, very few could explain what the group’s aims were.

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  4. antoinmaccomhain (profile) says:

    jlarkin

    It is evident that you set out to not only to discredit Occupy Belfast but in doing so deliberately ignored the reasoning for their protest, and thus the people affected by repossessions, evictions and homelessness.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Fairplay to the ‘Occupy Movement’ for having a pop at the banks,but the article is correct in pointing out one thing-They don’t know,or can’t define who they’re representing-

    In a way they’re probably doing more damage to the cause of the ‘homeless’ in the long term,as they’re actually drowning out the ‘homeless’ voice.

    It’s a bit like the antics of a very well known Female Rock Star from the south running to the papers about her ‘drug problem’,the same Rock Star only recently ran down to the Corpo to let them know they should be doing something for the ‘homeless’,effectively drowning out the ‘homeless voice’.

    I wouldn’t wish ‘homelessness’ on anybody,but to lump the ‘homeless’ in with those facing ‘repossession’ is wrong because it distorts the reality that there is two class systems,broadly speaking,within the 99%.Those on the upper deck will bend the knee,go to work and pay the bills,via the ‘we the citizens’ committee,and those on the lower deck,well we’re what one might define as field negroes-I’m a field negroe.

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  5. jlarkin (profile) says:

    The tone of your article, your questions to the public and your recordings quite clearly, deliberately and insincerely implies that Occupy Belfast is made up of incompetent people. Political apathy exists in this society and this group should not be blamed for it, which is the entail of your article.

    Yes, you say that Occupy Belfast is “highlighting valid issues” and explain what the protest was about, but you deliberately did their group disservice and the people they represent, including me – someone who is facing repossession. This is evident in your decision to edit-out or not record speeches and your decision to leave in less than desirable aspects to the protest as though that was all that actually took place.

    With several people filming footage, hopefully a much more accurate picture will emerge in the coming days.

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  6. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Given that the Northern economy is already 70+% state run, higher than the proportion in some pre-Berlin wall Soviet societies I’m not entirely clear what the “Occupy” movement hopes to achieve.

    State-takeover of the remaining 30% of the economy? Kim Jung Il would have approved I suppose.

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  7. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    Do you mean to suggest that those of us who go out to work and pay our bills are somehow akin to the house negro, while you in some way have refused to ‘bend the knee’ and remain a field negro.
    I’m sure that’s not what you mean?

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  8. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    No Eviction
    No Repossession

    Sounds good to me, must go cancel my mortgage payments, if I cant be evicted or repossessed why on earth would I pay!

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  9. Skinner (profile) says:

    “The tone of your article, your questions to the public and your recordings quite clearly, deliberately and insincerely implies that Occupy Belfast is made up of incompetent people.”

    It is self-evident that, if most people still don’t know what they’re actually protesting about, the prostesters must be fairly incompetent.

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  10. antoinmaccomhain (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    Do you mean to suggest that those of us who go out to work and pay our bills are somehow akin to the house negro, while you in some way have refused to ‘bend the knee’ and remain a field negro.
    I’m sure that’s not what you mean?

    I’m not having a pop at the ‘working class’,who go out to work and pay their bills,and as i’ve said-

    I wouldn’t wish ‘homelessness’ on anybody,but to lump the ‘homeless’ in with those facing ‘repossession’ is wrong because it distorts the reality that there is two class systems,broadly speaking,within the 99%.

    It’s not a case of wanting to be a ‘field negro’ so to speak. Although if i was in your shoes I would refuse to bend the knee.Perhaps you’d have to come directly from the ‘homeless-class’ to understand that.Or to paraphrase Nina Simone-’You give us second class houses and second class schools,do you think us coloured folks is second class fools’.

    Effectively what i’m saying is that the 99% don’t represent my ‘class’.My ‘class’ can best be defined by second class housing and second class schools-You’d need to come from the flats,or live on the streets,or be on the local authority housing list for approximately 10 years to understand this.

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  11. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    I take it you are homeless then? I would offer my sympathy, bur I’m sure you don’t want it.
    I have to take issue with this ‘bend the knee’ stuff though. How exactly am I or anyone else bending the knee, yet you are not?
    By going to work? By paying taxes? By being a part of the society you and I live in?
    Even those on the housing list or claiming benefits are part of the same deal, and must also be bending the knee.
    Do you suggest I give up my job and join the revolution?
    If you were in my position you would not bend the knee? Do you mean you would not take a job,or not pay taxes?
    I doubt, by the way, if you are suffering the same conditions as blacks did during slavery.

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  12. Alan, thanks for the advert, have just crossposted the article here as well but you will need to teach me how to embed audio files on Slugger! Just wouldn’t work for me

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  13. antoinmaccomhain (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    I take it you are homeless then? I would offer my sympathy, bur I’m sure you don’t want it.

    I was.But i’m not now and yes i don’t want your sympathy.

    )-I have to take issue with this ‘bend the knee’ stuff though. How exactly am I or anyone else bending the knee, yet you are not?
    By going to work? By paying taxes? By being a part of the society you and I live in?
    Even those on the housing list or claiming benefits are part of the same deal, and must also be bending the knee.

    The ‘welfare-class’ are a distinct ‘class’ to the ‘working class’.The ‘working class’ have had a pretty priveleged life for the last 10 years,and now ‘we’ all ‘working class?’.
    Don’t think so.

    Conditions in the ‘south’ are obviousily different to those in the ‘north’.The ‘working class’ in the ‘south’ bought into the ‘we’ all ‘middle-class’,and now they’re f*cked.It’s not so much a case as one commentator remarked that ‘we’ all bourgeoise now,or that ‘we’ all ‘middle-class’,more a case of ‘your’ all peasants now.

    )-If you were in my position you would not bend the knee? Do you mean you would not take a job,or not pay taxes?

    Never refused a days work in my life.

    )-I doubt, by the way, if you are suffering the same conditions as blacks did during slavery.

    I remember one night when i was homeless,i was sleeping in a doorway,and a white bloke decided to urinate on my sleeping bag.Woe and behold,it was a Blackman who intervened.All the white folk just went about their business-

    )-Do you suggest I give up my job and join the revolution?
    What revolution?

    Please don’t tell me them ‘middle class’ kids sleeping outside the bank in Dame Street are revolutionaries-I actually took the time to go in and offer a bit of solidarity with them-1 guy was so out of his box on god knows what.Another guy was a ‘disenfranchised’ homosexual.
    And another was a disgruntled business man.

    I would however empathize with people like-Because he can define what’s wrong with him.

    jlarkin-14 January 2012 at 11:59 pm
    ‘Yes, you say that Occupy Belfast is “highlighting valid issues” and explain what the protest was about, but you deliberately did their group disservice and the people they represent, including me – someone who is facing repossession.’

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  14. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    Are the welfare class not bending the knee then?
    I can see you are disgruntled, but like the ‘Occupy’ movement I can’t quite tell what you want.
    You say you never refused a days work in your life. So you worked and bent the knee then?
    Sleeping in a doorway is tough, but it is not slavery.

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  15. WellInformed (profile) says:

    From talking to these protesters, they have confirmed much secret support from the public who are too scared to lose their jobs if they also protest. The low numbers of actual protestors is also in my opinion, a true reflection of the level of fear amongst the public to protest against this subject.
    Ironic that the protestors I spoke to are receiving criticism about their lack of desire to look for employment, when certain corrupt forces have already threatened or stolen their promising financial future.
    So I imagine the layman on the street is happy to sit and boil slowly like a frog in a pan whilst the corrupt governments of the world plunge that layman into such debt it would be impossible to recover from. I don’t know why more people haven’t realised that the current level of trillions of debt cannot be repaid without intense poverty. Is the layman really happy to just hope that their jobs will be safe and their mortgage will be paid when this current debt can only recreate a national poverty known only in the Dark Ages?
    I commend these protesters for highlighting the national debt crisis. We are all only a couple of months away from losing our home but this debt makes it more likely. Glad someone is willing to want to say NO to this debt now and give it a chance to turn around before it’s too late. There are HUNDREDS of other cities protesting globally about the same problem, therefore t is a classless problem which won’t dfferentiate between race, gender, etc. This issue isn’t going away and neither are the protestors. Good luck to anyones long-term finances who decides not to support their cause.

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  16. antoinmaccomhain (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    Are the welfare class not bending the knee then?
    I can see you are disgruntled, but like the ‘Occupy’ movement I can’t quite tell what you want.
    You say you never refused a days work in your life. So you worked and bent the knee then?
    Sleeping in a doorway is tough, but it is not slavery.

    What i said about bending the knee-
    ‘I wouldn’t wish ‘homelessness’ on anybody,but to lump the ‘homeless’ in with those facing ‘repossession’ is wrong because it distorts the reality that there is two class systems,broadly speaking,within the 99%.Those on the upper deck will bend the knee,go to work and pay the bills,via the ‘we the citizens’ committee,and those on the lower deck,well we’re what one might define as field negroes-I’m a field negroe.’

    We The Citizens-Board members-Bankrolled by an American Billionaire Chuck Feeney-’The initiative is being supported by Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies to the tune of €630,000.’

    Board members-(All from the middle/upper class(Perhaps 1 solitary token).Hence the expression-Those on the upper deck will bend the knee,go to work and pay the bills,via the ‘we the citizens’ committee,and those on the lower deck,well we’re what one might define as field negroes-I’m a field negroe.’)

    1)Fiach Mac Conghail has been Director/CEO of the Abbey Theatre since May 2005. The Abbey Theatre is Ireland’s National Theatre and he is responsible for the artistic programming and strategic management of the organisation.

    2) Professor Tom Collins is currently President of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Prior to this he was Head of the Education Department and Dean of Teaching and Learning at NUI Maynooth.

    3)Ned Costello is Chief Executive of the Irish Universities Association, the representative body for the seven Irish Universities. In this capacity, he works closely with the IUA Council and IUA’s standing committees which represent university senior management

    4) Niamh Gallagher is co-founder of Women for Europe and Women for Election, organisations focused on increasing women’s voices in the political process. Niamh works as Research and Policy Analyst at the Children’s Rights Alliance in Dublin. As part of her work she represents the Alliance at Social Partnership, on the End Child Poverty Coalition, and at Eurochild, where she is Chair of the Policy Working Group.

    5)Owen Keenan is founder and managing director of Middlequarter, a niche consultancy that since 2005 has worked with non-profit and philanthropic organisations in Ireland and abroad. He had previously worked for more than thirty years in the community and voluntary sector in Ireland, mostly in positions of leadership and management including fifteen years (1990–2005) as Chief Executive of Barnardos, which under his leadership grew to become a national organisation.

    6)Brigid Laffan PhD took office as the Principal of the College of Human Sciences, University College Dublin in September 2004. In 1991, Professor Laffan was appointed as Jean Monnet Professor of European Politics in the Department of Politics, UCD. She was the founding Director of the Dublin European Institute UCD in 1999. In March 2004, she was elected as a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

    7)Sylda Langford is the former Director General of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in the Department of Health and Children. Prior to this, she was an Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Justice and Law Reform for nine years. She has had extensive experience in policy and legislative work across a broad range of government areas. She is Chair of the Citizen’s Information Board.

    8) Fidèle Mutwarasibo- He is originally from Rwanda and has been living in Ireland since 1995. Before joining the ICI in 2002, Fidèle worked in community development with Canal Communities Partnership and was a researcher with the African Cultural Project.

    9)Malcolm Quigley -Malcolm established VSO in Ireland in 2004. He is a University of Limerick (UL) business studies and languages graduate and also has an MBA from the Solvay School of Business at the Free University of Brussels. After graduating from UL Malcolm took up an internship at the European Commission in Brussels.

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  17. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    I am no clearer on how I am bending the knee but you are not. You just keep repeating the same mantra over and over.
    Good to see those on the lower deck can afford PCs though.
    Slavery is not what it used to be.

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  18. antoinmaccomhain (profile) says:

    antoinmaccomhain
    I am no clearer on how I am bending the knee but you are not. You just keep repeating the same mantra over and over.
    Good to see those on the lower deck can afford PCs though.

    The only thing i own in this life are the cloths on my back-
    And 1 sprog-

    The ‘middle-class’,have already,imo,beaten the ‘working class’,via the illusion,’we the citizens’ quango-

    The latest rant from Fine Gaels Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs,is that she’s helping out charities like Pieta House-(Supposed to be a nuetral venue-For ‘suicidal people’,and Frances FitzGerald is claiming she’s been working with them for ‘years’……No such thing…….)I know 3 people who died since xmas,2 suicide + 1 o.d……..

    I can understand the ‘occupy movement’ taking over an empty building……….I’m not an anarchist……But,i’d ‘empathize with people like Robert Jasper Grootveld because of the stance they took against the Multi-National Tobacco companys….

    There’s 200,000 empty houses in Ireland(They’ve started to knock down buildings where people could live…..

    Now-If there isn’t two ‘distinct’ class systems at play,why have all the above,aforementioned,’educated’ middle class people made careers out of ”community development’,’Childrens Rights Alliance’, ‘Chief Executive of Barnardos’,’End Child Poverty Coalition’,
    ‘Canal Communities Partnership’,etc.etc.

    Take No.5,For example-5)Owen Keenan is founder and managing director of Middlequarter, a niche consultancy that since 2005 has worked with non-profit and philanthropic organisations in Ireland and abroad. He had previously worked for more than thirty years in the community and voluntary sector in Ireland, mostly in positions of leadership and management including fifteen years (1990–2005) as Chief Executive of Barnardos, which under his leadership grew to become a national organisation.

    Bernados actually only became ‘a national organisation’
    at the ‘height’ of the Celtic Tiger,thanks largely to the ‘philantraphy’ of the ‘middle-class’……..

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