Connolly Barracks is the name we have given to the building which members of the Cork branch of the Connolly Youth Movement liberated, cleaned and transformed into a home. Members scouted Cork City for a number of buildings that were clearly idle, abandoned or derelict and chose this one following further investigation. It was in an abysmal state after being left abandoned for almost a decade. We consider it horrendous and appalling that thousands of homes are left empty or derelict in the midst of the worst housing crisis in the history of the state. Why is it this way?
This housing crisis benefits the banker-developer-landlord caste in Irish society. Low supply means that demand is high which in turn increases the cost of housing. The way to maintain a low supply is for the State, which traditionally provided housing, to refuse to build. That’s exactly what they are doing. Private developers are being given the tender at a cost that guarantees huge profits for all parties except of course anyone renting or looking to buy.
In liberating this building we have made a political statement to our peers; The time to act on housing is now. Liberating buildings in this manner is merely one front in the fight for better housing conditions. Joining the campaign for public housing is another way of presenting tangible solutions to the housing crisis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answered by the residents of Connolly Barracks
What are living conditions like in Connolly Barracks?
There is no electricity or hot water in the house, which can be uncomfortable, especially during winter when daylight hours are short and nights are cold. Despite this, the house is always full of life. We regularly cook meals together with our camping stove, hold education sessions and meetings or just relax and hang out around the gas heater.
What have you done to improve the house since you moved in?
When we first entered the house in 2017 it was completely uninhabitable. Cobwebs and mildew covered the walls and the dust was so thick that it would leave a footprint after stepping on it. Since then we have made this place into a home. At the front of the house we have made a small garden with flowers, vegetables and herbs. Inside, the house has been thoroughly cleaned, repainted and filled with lovely posters, photos and paintings.
Why is it called Connolly Barracks?
We didn’t want to simply call it ‘the squat’, so the term ‘Barracks’ was chosen to distinguish ourselves from other squats or occupations. We want to make it clear that this is a well-run political project in which all residents contribute to its maintenance and protection.
How long have you occupied the house for?
The house was first occupied in August 2017 and has been continuously occupied since then.
Who lives in the house?
Connolly Barracks has roughly half a dozen permanents at any given time. We are a mix of workers and full-time students. All are members of Connolly Youth Movement.
What are the rules for living in Connolly Barracks?
The principles of Connolly Barracks can be read here. New rules or amendments can be suggested by anyone at a house meeting. The principles we use to run Connolly Barracks have served us well and we offer them as a template to any other group or organisation looking to run their own occupation.
Do the residents of Connolly Barracks pay rent?
No. No one living in Connolly Barracks has ever been asked to pay any rent and they never will be. We voted to create a kitty, into which we pay a maximum of €5 a week, which is used by all of us to pay for cleaning supplies, gas cylinders, bin collections etc. Paying into the kitty is encouraged for the good of the house; it is not mandatory. We fully understand that money can be scarce, so if someone can’t pay it’s never a problem.
Is squatting illegal?
To break into and occupy property is illegal. However, adverse possession, as ‘squatter’s rights’ is known in legal terms, allows a third party to claim a right over land or property registered in someone else’s name if they can prove that they have occupied it continuously for over 12 years. This period of time is reduced to six years if the owner of the property has died and it has not been inherited by someone else.
To obtain squatter’s rights, a detailed affidavit presenting indisputable evidence of entitlement to the property must be sent to the Property Registration Authority.
We are not interested in owning the property, only in making a political statement to the people of Ireland. The Connolly Youth Movement does not recognise the right to private property over the right to housing.
Who owns the house?
We believe that the house was most likely abandoned following the flooding in Cork in 2009 and was then left to rot by the landlord. A brief statement on the attempt by this supposed landlord to remove us can be read here. Who currently owns the property and why they have made no further attempt to remove us is unknown.
How is occupying an empty home helping the housing crisis?
We do not see the occupation of derelict buildings as the solution to the housing crisis, instead we see it as a means of challenging the current system through an act of civil disobedience. We want to normalize the idea that houses should never be left empty while people are forced to sleep on the streets and that it is morally right for the public to occupy them in a time of crisis.
To quote from our Resolution on Housing: “The only way to resolve the housing crisis and end property speculation is to consider access to shelter a human right. This can never happen in a commodity driven society and the CYM will struggle to highlight this. The CYM has joined a campaign for public housing to highlight the necessity of constructing universally accessible income based public housing. We believe that the right to housing should be incorporated into the constitution by referendum.”
Why don’t you use the building as a homeless shelter?
Ideally we would be able to house homeless people. Unfortunately, we are not social workers and we currently do not have the ability to provide for the needs of homeless people, many of whom struggle with issues which we do not have the training or the resources to handle. However, CYM Cork is able to carry out a ‘food run’ every Sunday night where we distribute food, hot drinks, clothes, sanitary items and more to homeless people on the streets of Cork.
How do I find and occupy a derelict building?
Anyone can do it with the right people around them. We have learned a great deal in our time living in Connolly Barracks and we have built up plenty of advice and tips for prospective squatters. We are keen to give a hand to any leftist organisation or group of people who are looking to begin their own occupation. Simply contact us on facebook at Connolly Youth Movement – Cork Branch or email us at [email protected].