Researchers seek to speak to anyone involved in 1970s rent strike in Cork

In 1970, The Echo reported: “Collectors sent out from the City Hall as usual, had a lean time and small pickings at Togher and Friars Walk and the warning is that the situation will worsen.” 
Researchers seek to speak to anyone involved in 1970s rent strike in Cork

The rent strike was particularly active in Cork, especially in Ballyphehane, Mayfield and Togher, with tenants’ associations on Cork’s south side the first to go on rent strike in March 1970, sparking a national campaign that lasted until August 1973.

In 1970 a rent strike in Cork sparked a national movement, and now researchers are hoping to speak to anyone who took part.

Working with researchers at Maynooth University, members of the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) are currently undertaking an oral history project on the history of housing activism in Ireland.

The project is focusing on the successful national rent strike which occurred between 1970 and 1973 and which was coordinated by the National Association of Tenants Organisations.

The rent strike was particularly active in Cork, especially in Ballyphehane, Mayfield and Togher, with tenants’ associations on Cork’s south side the first to go on rent strike in March 1970, sparking a national campaign that lasted until August 1973.

The lead story on the Evening Echo on Saturday 7 March, 1970 is headlined 'Tenants To March In Rents Protests, and it predicts that “At least 7,000 people will march through the streets of Cork City” to protest against recent rent increases, the transfer of tenancies, and the differential rent system.

The next edition, on Monday 9 March, has the headline 'Tenants Stop Rents Today', and the story begins: “Cork Corporation tenants began their war against officialdom and the new rents system today by withholding their rents.

“Collectors sent out from the City Hall as usual, had a lean time and small pickings at Togher and Friars Walk and the warning is that the situation will worsen.” 

ORAL HISTORY

The CATU community history research group is conducting an oral history project to collect personal experiences of the rent strikes from around Ireland, ensure these events are not forgotten and to promote discussion about means to address the current housing crisis.

Fiadh Tubridy, a researcher with the Maynooth University geography department, told The Echo the project was of particular interest to CATU given the current housing crisis.

“We’re doing this project about the rent strikes in the early 1970s because as CATU is a community and tenants union that’s been set up in the last few years, we’re really interested in learning from what people have done in the past and what means they’ve found of addressing their housing issues, bearing in mind the particular intensity of the housing crisis now,” Dr Tubridy said.

“We have become aware of this mobilisation or movement that happened in the early 1970s, and how it was a really huge nationwide movement which involved tens of thousands of people withholding their rents all throughout the country.

“And yet, there’s really been almost nothing recorded or written about it, and it’s totally forgotten about, and we’re interested in making sure that the experiences and perspectives of the people who were involved are recorded, so it’s not all forgotten,” they said.

The Cork strikes sparked a rolling series of rent strikes around the country, first in Ballymun, then in Limerick, the Midlands, Drogheda and other places.

“The rent strike in Cork was really dramatic, with people on hunger strike at a certain point, and I was talking to a man earlier whose wife was on hunger strike outside City Hall,” Dr Tubridy said.

The CATU community history research group is looking to speak with anyone who was involved in the rent strike in Cork or who has relevant information.

Contact the research team on catunato@gmail.com or 0877197874.

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