Pensioner takes direct action to open up Transport House for homeless

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Saturday night pensioner Francis Morgan began tearing down the wooden boarding at the disused Transport House union building in Belfast city centre to demand rights for homeless people.

'I am a Belfast man born and bred and I want to bring the heart back into the city. I want to open this building as a shelterter for the homeless until the end of March.... this union building belongs to its members and I am calling on them to give this building for the homeless,' he told the Irish News.

This direct action follows the decision by Unite! last week to board up their former headquarters at Transport House in Belfast a day after a homeless man was pictured on the front of the Irish News sheltering at its steps.  This exposes how far our trade union leadership are divorced from the most vulnerable and needy in our society.

According to the Irish News several callers rang the paper claiming they saw police wearing ‘rubber gloves’ removing him from the steps and that the police were paying particular attention to any homeless people in the vicinity of Transport House and comes after Unite! erected wooden boardings around the entrances citing ‘insurance reasons’. Both the PSNI and Unite! Have refused to comment on speculation that Unite have asked the police to remove any homeless people from the vicinity.

While mystery still surrounds the present whereabouts of Tony, questions still need to answered by Unite about using the PSNI! The news should come as no surprise on the back on the airport workers dispute in 2008 where three airport workers were forced to take drastic action by going on hunger and thirst strike for five days outside Transport House over a disputed compensation claim. As well as engaging in a scaremongering and dis-information campaign, the Unite! Leadership refused to meet the strikers face to face and instead threatened them with an injunction and removal from the vicinity of Transport House.

Meanwhile the number of households presenting as homeless in Northern Ireland has increased by 8 per cent on last year. Figures published by the Department for Social Development last week show 20,158 households presented as homeless in 2010/11, compared to 18,664 in 2009/10, an increase of 8 per cent.

This situation is exacerbated by a lack in affordable social housing and vicious anti-working class cuts being imposed by our local politicians while our embedded trade union bureaucracy is more concerned and embarrassed by the sight of the homeless forced to find shelter on its doorstop in freezing temperatures. 

Francis Morgan's occupation has laid down the marker. We need to stop moaning and to start to build a real grassroots occupy movement in this city which is visible and prepared to challenge the status-quo.

Occupy! Resist! Expropriate!

WORDS: Sean Matthews

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