Dublin A change in plans pushed Tunisia off of my plane ticket and found me jumping instead from Manchester, England, to Dublin, Ireland, to meet with the officers of ACORN’s newest affiliate, CATU-Ireland or Communities and Tenants’ Union of Ireland. Nick Ballard, head organizer of ACORN-United Kingdom and I had visited almost a year ago in February with a number of smaller tenant organizations in Dublin, Limerick, and Galway. In December, the ACORN board voted on the request of CATU-Ireland to affiliate with ACORN, and the response was unanimous approval.
The process had been a long and winding road. The various groups had debated whether to affiliate individually or collectively or not at all. Tenant groups are not uncommon in Ireland, but tend to be smaller, between fifty to two-hundred activists with a looser membership, usually no dues, and never any staff. At the same time, when threatened they have frequently been able to mobilize thousands in protests and on the street, squat for months to stop evictions and demolitions, and impact politics. The problem as they addressed it with ACORN was the need, given the crisis of unaffordable housing, to be sustainable and develop an organization that was dues-based and would be able to field a permanent organizing and support staff.
Various delegations from Ireland, particularly in the Dublin area, had visited ACORN offices. One group went to Bristol and Manchester for training in September. Another group followed with a visit to the ACORN Living Rent affiliate in Glasgow. Both came away from the trips with a conviction to go forward with an organizing drive that they then began in the Mountjoy – Dorsett neighborhood. The former home of world-famous novelist, James Joyce, was located off the Mountjoy Square Park, and one of his short stories included St. Francis Xavier Church where CATU is considering as a site for the launch meeting of the first group. The group has a mixture of tenants and home owners, or more accurately, mortgage holders, as CATU calls them, with issues ranging from maintenance to general services in the community. The first launch meeting should be held by the end of February which will be the perfect cap to this year of organizing rising in Dublin.
Talking with some of the officers in a coffeehouse in Mountjoy throughout the afternoon, I could appreciate that they had felt bogged down with the registration process, getting a bank account, figuring out a way to collect dues automatically, and the usual infrastructure of a new organization. Nonetheless, looking over the year, they had gotten there. The first thirty members had joined. The regular doorknocking days and weekend stalls had trained the committee and some residents sufficiently to do the job.
National elections are coming and change is in the air. Progress is progress, and the future seems solid for CATU and ACORN in Ireland.