‘N’S Story of Slum Landlordism in West Belfast
Due to the lack of affordable or so called ‘social housing’ in West Belfast, many working class families are at the mercy of what can only be classed as ‘Slum Landlords.’ These private landlords are raking in a fortune in Housing Benefit payments from NIHE yet most refuse to do even basic repairs such as damp proofing or rodent control to their properties that they let out. Despite receiving 3 or 4 times what the landlord’s mortgage payments would be, or would have been (in cases where the landlord(s) already own the property outright), they are making a fortune via monthly payments from tenants, whether via Housing Benefit, or a significant portion of a tenant’s income. Many of these slum landlords own multiple properties and have a monopoly on the rental market in West Belfast. This problem is compounded by a very long waiting list for ‘social housing’ that effectively means that families registered know they have literally multiple years to wait which leaves them at the mercy of private landlords who charge upwards of £550 per month for substandard dwellings, many of which are over 100 years old.
“N”s story is just one example of thousands of families and single persons in West Belfast who are in a similar situation.
It is time that working class people at the mercy of these blood suckers organised and looked to, for instance, the Irish Republican Socialist Party who, unlike other so-called ‘Republican’ parties are not tainted by members who are heavily involved in these vile slum landlord practices. The following excerpt from James Connolly’s satirical article, “Let Us Free Ireland” (1899) prophetically describes these one dimensional nationalists, their limitations and their involvement in Gombeen Capitalism:
“Let us free Ireland! Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.
Let us free Ireland! The rackrenting landlord; is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother – yea, even when he raises our rent.
Let us free Ireland! The profit-grinding capitalist, who robs us of three-fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks the very marrow of our bones when we are young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn-out tool when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him?
Let us free Ireland! “The land that bred and bore us.” And the landlord who makes us pay for permission to live upon it. Whoop it up for liberty!
“Let us free Ireland,” says the patriot who won’t touch Socialism. Let us all join together and cr-r-rush the br-r-rutal Saxon. Let us all join together, says he, all classes and creeds. And, says the town worker, after we have crushed the Saxon and freed Ireland, what will we do? Oh, then you can go back to your slums, same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!
And, says the agricultural workers, after we have freed Ireland, what then? Oh, then you can go scraping around for the landlord’s rent or the money-lenders’ interest same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!
After Ireland is free, says the patriot who won’t touch socialism, we will protect all classes, and if you won’t pay your rent you will be evicted same as now. But the evicting party, under command of the sheriff, will wear green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the roadside will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic. Now, isn’t that worth fighting for?”
Video by “N”, just one of many victims of Slum Landlordism in the Beechmount area.
Article by Alex McGuigan