Community Action Tenants Union

The 1972 NATO Rent Strike Research #rentstrike50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a movement of working-class people from all around the island of Ireland. A national rent strike took place involving tens of thousands of tenants during the years 1972 and ’73 (and which had been building up in the years previous) this was coordinated by an umbrella group of individual tenants’ associations known as the National Association of Tenants Organisations, or NATO.

The background to the NATO rent strike was the worsening conditions faced by tenants and working-class communities around Ireland in the early 70s; as overcrowded and poor-quality housing, a lack of community facilities in new council estates, the rising cost of living and massive rent increases. By May 1972 rent strikes were already ongoing all over the Republic including in Cork, Drogheda, Dundalk, Tullamore, Kilkenny, Limerick, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Shannon. Their demands included a total overhaul of the system of setting rents and full recognition of NATO by the government as the official representative body for its members. The national rent strike lasted until August 1973 and ended with complete success. Council tenants won large rent reductions and NATO was recognised as their official representative body. The Irish Times reported that the rent-strike was “Unquestionably the most dramatic and bloodless victory ever achieved in this century by tenants versus landlords.”

However, like many aspects of working-class history, these events do not appear in the established historical record and the experiences of those who took part have not been recorded.

To address this, we are carrying out an oral history project on the national rent strike. We seek to collect the experiences of those who were involved and address this gap in our collective memory. This project is rooted in the belief that there are important lessons to be learnt from previous successful examples of community and tenant organising in Ireland. Join us, share any info you might have, do the research with us! Contact us at or (087) 719 7874.