As Ireland reels from yet another austere budget and a year of economic pain, a group of young activists have begun to take over empty properties spawned by the boom and abandoned by banks and property developers across the country.

The squatters, linked to Ireland's Occupy movement, say they plan a mass occupation of houses and flats owned by the Irish government's "bad bank", National Asset Management Agency (Nama)*, which took over thousands of properties that speculators handed back after the crash.

Led by a 27-year-old Irish-language speaker and graduate from Galway, the group has already squatted a house on Dublin's northside that was worth €550,000 in the boom but is now put at under €200,000. Since the property has been empty for several years, Liam Mac an Bháird and his friends occupied it in the autumn to highlight homelessness, as well as the way builders and banks were bailed out by the taxpayer.

There are up to 400,000 properties lying empty in the Irish Republic, with the country's National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) warning that the number of vacant properties could keep house prices low for years.

Mac an Bháird concedes that his group are breaking the law but argues that they are making an important political point. "There are thousands homeless in this country with about 2,000 on the streets of Dublin alone tonight. Yet across the city there are thousands of flats, apartments, homes lying empty – some could be fit for human habitation.

"I have been arguing in the Occupy movement that we need to take over Nama*-owned properties in Dublin to highlight the injustice of a system where billions were pumped into banks that lent property speculators so much money," he said. Read original article in The Guardian...