I am mindful that I have come into the Chamber to talk about illegal evictions. While the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is most definitely tasked with the reduction in the number of evictions generally, and we will try to get through it today, this might be more of an issue for the Department of Justice. That is the Department I had in mind when I tabled this matter.
It is very much on the record of this Dáil that I have more general thoughts on the need for evictions but what I want to talk about now is the way in which they are carried out. In the past year or so in my constituency, there have been evictions on Slaney Road, Summerhill Parade, Berkeley Road and St. Joseph's Place. There are two issues that come up in these evictions, which have a huge impact on our community in Dublin Central. One is the occasional presence of masked third parties who sometimes act as supporters to the landlord and sometimes as enforcement agents. To be clear, this is an issue that has gone on much longer than the Covid-19 crisis. The covering of faces is not necessarily a Covid measure but one assumes it is to either obscure somebody's identity or is an act of intimidation. The second issue is the engagement of An Garda Síochána with the issue of evictions more generally.
I point out to the Minister of State that we tend to think of evictions as an issue between two parties and a commercial transaction but when somebody is being removed from their home, including his or her possessions, there is a balance of power that lies with the landlord. That tenant is in a vulnerable position. He or she deserves the full protection of the law and the support of An Garda Síochána.
I welcome the Private Security Services (Amendment) Bill that was debated in the House earlier. That will afford enforcement agents at least the same kind of oversight that we have for nightclub bouncers and night watch security men, which is very welcome. Concerns remain around the unpaid friends and supporters of landlords who might arrive at evictions that we have witnessed happening in Dublin Central. That remains uncovered by this legislation and not really addressed.
An Garda Síochána would say that the matter of an eviction is a civil matter between two parties and that it has no role to play. To enter somebody's home forcefully, the place where they live, sometimes with children present, remove his or her belongings physically and sometimes damage those belongings in that process is very serious action to take. At a minimum, I propose that An Garda Síochána should ensure that illegal evictions are not being carried out.
There was an incident on Berkeley Road last August which gave rise to a review of the Garda conduct during the incident. I would very much like to know what that review found. The most recent eviction in Dublin Central was on St. Joseph's Place and it was during the Covid restrictions and the moratorium on evictions. That resulted in a stand-off involving the tenant, the landlord, the landlord's eviction agents and the supporters of the tenants that lasted for seven hours. Thankfully, a senior Garda had the diplomacy skills and the knowledge to de-escalate the situation and the tenant was able to stay in the accommodation.
I ask the Minister of State - he might work with the Minister for Justice on this - to provide procedures within An Garda Síochána around de-escalating those stand-offs of the kind to which I refer, put in place procedures that recognise the human element at play during evictions and the real issue around the illegal carrying out of evictions where gardaí should have a role to play. Procedures should also be put in place to protect vulnerable tenants.