Bank Eviction in Roscommon helps build bridges across the island of Ireland

17/12/2018. The aftermath. Some of the burned out vans and cars in the yard of the house which was the scene of an eviction in Strokestown last week. Photo Brian Farrell

Becoming viral on social media is the latest development in the Roscommon bank eviction saga. Before today, I had never heard of Jim Dowson, a loyalist activist in Ulster. A video was shared to my Facebook, and it was a revelation to watch, and the offer at the end was just what this island needs. However, the rest of his politics is too right wing for my liking, as is to be expected from Loyalism.

However, to have a future for Ireland, we have to engage and get common ground.

Background to the Roscommon Evictions

As Dowson points out, these are a hard working family. They get up early in the morning, try to keep their farm afloat. One of them took a gamble on land, borrowed money, and got on the wrong side of the balance sheet very quickly.

Anthony McGann seems to have a history of cash flowing through the fingers, and probably a bad understanding of money. An issue with the taxman led to a near half million settlement on a bill originally not €200000. That’s what happens when you dispute an audit. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he was right. We will never know.

It wont stop the media from using it to blacken his name. Or for Leo Varadkar using it to discredit him and support the banks. Ironic given his government is supported by a tax defaulter in Michael Lowry.

To his credit, he did pay a €50,000 mortgage off, so it seems indicative of someone over the head than out to cheat the system.

The Bad Jibe of Dowson

In his criticism of Varadkar, Dowson jibes Varadkars background. Is it racist? A little. But more to do with Republican jibes at Loyalists being foreign though theyr families lived here in excess of 400 years, than a swipe at Indians themselves. As he says about the protesters at the evictions calling the crew British so and so’s, its understandable and forgivable in the circumstances.

His comments that Varadkars family background would not leave him sympathetic to Irish people though is wrong: if anything it should leave him MORE sympathetic to the Irish people as his family were involved in the struggle to free India from the Raj.

The 4chan generation

Varadkar may be an early symptom of what I call the 4chan generation. He is not racist as such, true, but does share a lot of the ultra capitalist thinking of 4chan users. They are known for their love of Donald Trump and the free market.

The second feature of the 4chan generation is the rebel aspect. Their parents as normally socially conscious. That having moved to the mainstream means that to rebel you must go against it.

… “And then he became a member of Fine Gael.” Ashok shrugged. “Maybe he was revolting.”

…There were rows “all the time, all the time” about politics between father and son.
“I’m a socialist,” says Ashok

– Irish times article

Ashocks elder brothers had been involved, one serving jail time, in fighting the Raj. Leos mother is of a FF background, again from the time when it was a more people centered part than today.

So Leo seems to be a Trumpite rebel from very decent people that Dowson would have more in common with than he realises.

How NOT to carry out an eviction…

Dowson echos my thinking that to use a loyalist gang to evict a nationalist family is as bad as using a nationalist / republican gang to evict a loyalist family. It would be a silly thing to do as it would rise communal tensions.

…or maybe it IS how to carry out an eviction

Dowson says to get attention away from the eviction, getting the heat at who is doing it as opposed to what and why they are doing it is EXACTLY the right was to do it in the banks eyes. Deflects the blame.

Its something I had not thought of, and makes a lot of sense.

Loyalist solidarity across the Divide

Gary McMichael, David Ervine, names that have got a common respect in the south. It is in this tradition Dowson seems to come from. His offer to join protests could see an all Ireland unity on common issues not seen since 1798. That rebellion too was the masses against the classes.

Orange and Green against the classes in the past

It finished up in the bogs outside my cottage in Ballinamuck. Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics fought the British state, whose forces were of the same make up, but from the higher classes. To spite the penal laws of the times, there was still a middle class in Ireland among the Gaelic Catholics. The church supported the Crown against the people.

Its a class issue, the Property War

Dowson says no decent loyalist would partake in evictions, yet in our take on history its exactly loyalists who evicted people. From Lord Lortons evictions of famine times – ironically also at Christmas – to the 1920’s, our perception is of the loyalist yoke against the Irish people.

A closer look at history tells a different tale.

The wrecking crews were as liable to be Irish Catholics earning a pound as they were to be loyalists. However, the disowning of such by the community as “British” led to the perception that we have today. That, and the fact they were led by loyalist gentry such as Jemmy Dopping.

James Henry Dopping. Notorious for evictions, he was one of the first students of NUIG, then known as Queens College Galway

James Henry Dopping. Notorious for evictions, he was one of the first students of NUIG, then known as Queens College Galway

In Longford, there was one notorius figure, Jemmy Doppings. He worked for Black Jack Adair in Donegal, and another landlord up there for two of the most horrific series of evicctions in the 19th century. While his politics was loyalist, Jemmy Dopping would throw out a Protestant as quick as a Catholic, it was a class issue for him. And if you were poor, you had no class.

The Derrycassin Evictions: legacy of a Wicked Stepmother

Jemmy Dopping returned to Longford to administer his brothers estates. Ralph Doppings-Hepenstal was married twice, first to Diana Hepenstal of Altidore from whom he took the surname appendage as she was richer than him.

He then married Annie Fox of Foxhall in Longford, the iconic wicked stepmother. The latter bankrupted an already shaky estate to make the children of Diana poor. In the process of keeping the estate together, tenants behind on their rents got evicted in evictions that should never have been. While these were not nearly as bad as Donegal, its for these he is remembered and reviled.

Moving beyond the shadow of history

To have Irish loyalist working class and farming class allied with Irish nationalist working class and farming class is to get to escape from the trials of history, as visioned by men such as David Ervine.

Aftermath of Roscommon

The attack by “vigilantes” to depose Iain Gordon and his crew and take back the house was sneeringly condemned by Leo Varadkar in the Dail. He jibed that it “let the balaclava slip” to SF deputies who argued the families case.

Instead of letting it slide they got all hot and bothered about the jibe. In politics you get the likes of that. It should have been ignored, as its not too long ago when the guards themselves wore balaclavas at a street protest.

So what do I think of the taking back by force of the house? Well, I wouldnt buy the bailiff a pint in the pub if I met him. If I met any of the gang who took the house back, Id buy them ten!

Finding a better way

A better way, aimed at keeping families in the family homestead has to be found, than evictions. On a case by case basis, each most be looked at and teased through.

TD’s like Michael Fitzmaurice highlighted this case in the Dáil. They have come up with solution after solution which have not been adopted by the governement. It seems our regime has as amuch a lazzaise faire attitide to the housing crisis as Trevelyon had to food during the famine times.

As Fitzmaurice pointed out – two out of three people who had no bad dealings with the banks, were now homeless as a result of this. Could they not have been let live out their days in the family home, the land sold off to meet the debts, and then the family home after the siblings day to pay what could be paid of the remainder?

In Leo’s rebel Ireland, the answer is no. The people really DO not matter.

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!