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Abbey West residents Birgit and Lianna Falk, Keith Horan and Johnny White in Johnny's house in Bellharbour. Photograph by John Kelly.

Belharbour residents protest in song

Residents of a North Clare housing development, who last week were told they had three days to move out of the homes they have rented for years, have recorded a protest song.

Jim McKee wrote and sings the song, while two of his neighbours in Abbey West, Belharbour, Brian Fleming and Keith Horan, also perform on the track.

“This is our way of raising awareness and protesting in a peaceful way. Art and music is a great way of getting the message across,” Mr McKee said.

Residents of the thatched cottages received hand-delivered letters last week, telling them to move out of their homes by Friday because of health and safety concerns.

“We have recorded a song and it is coming out on Wednesday. The song is called Shame on You. I wrote it. We recorded it in Garry O’Briain’s studio and we have Dermot Byrne from the band Altan on it, Brian Fleming is on percussion and Keith Horan and a few friends from Dublin and Brendan O’Regan. Sean Tyrell is also on it,” Mr McKee outlined.

“It is about the shame of what has happened and what is going on nine days before Christmas. We have shot a video and it will go up on YouTube on Christmas Eve for to be there on Christmas Day. In the song, we just tell what has happened to us, ‘nine days before Christmas, bells in the harbour, receivers issue three days to get out’,” he added.

Marcus Purcell, receiver and partner with EY Ireland, said, “The correspondence received by the tenants was not an eviction notice. The receivers have a legal responsibility to inform tenants of any health and safety risks they may be exposed to and, based on the evidence the receivers were provided with by the health and safety review, the tenants were informed that their properties have been deemed as unsafe to live in and financial support was offered to assist with relocation.  Should the tenants choose to stay in their properties, they do so at their own risk, based on the findings of the health and safety review. The receivers are currently assessing their position and will continue to communicate with the tenants to agree on a reasonable resolution.”

However, Mr McKee and his neighbour, Birgit Falk, want to see the problems repaired, with residents remaining in their homes.
“We are going nowhere…Our simple argument is that the problems with the houses, fix them. Fix them while we are in them. I believe they are fixable,” Mr McKee said.

“We have been living here for seven years, many of our neighbours for longer. We are safe here. Why can’t these problems be fixed while we are still here? Why can’t they come and fix the things? It is obvious that these problems can be fixed. The roof would be the most expensive thing but even it could be done while we are in the house,” Ms Falk commented.

Mr McKee said he hopes the song will be available to download on iTunes, with the money raised going to housing organisation The Hub Ireland in Galway.

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