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Monday 27 February 2017

Irish woman hits out at 'treatment of homeless man' in restaurant

Daire Courtney

Daire Courtney

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Food chain McDonald's are investigating after an Irish woman said she was stunned at the treatment of a homeless man at one of their Dublin city centre restaurants on Monday morning.

Alicia Gayson, a psychotherapist who raises money and food vouchers for the homeless in her spare time, met James on O’Connell Street.

He explained that he had been beaten up in front of the GPO the previous night and had his phone stolen; he said he had no way to contact the Freephone number for emergency accommodation.

Alicia brought James to McDonald’s and checked with the security guard before they went in, as James said that the restaurant would not let him in because he is homeless.

“I thought that sounded very strange, so I checked with the security guard, who was a gentleman and he said it was fine,” Alicia told Independent.ie.

Alicia said the pair were sitting and eating for a few minutes when a member of staff told them to move as she had to clean the area.

Alicia said that they would leave when they finished eating, but the member of staff and manager continued to say the area needed to be cleaned.

“The place was absolutely spotless; I couldn’t understand it,” Alicia said.

During the argument, Alicia noticed that ‘cleaning in progress’ signs had been placed around the section of tables they were sitting at.

Upset and embarrassed by the incident, James left the restaurant and thanked Alicia for the meal and for speaking up for him.

Alicia posted about the incident on Facebook yesterday, and the post has since gone viral.

McDonald’s Restaurant's of Ireland released a statement stating that neither customer was asked to leave, stating that the customers chose to leave. 

It said: "Following a post on social media concerning our O’Connell Street restaurant, we have reviewed CCTV footage and interviewed staff on duty to investigate the matter."

"We would like to clearly state that McDonald’s operates an inclusive policy of welcoming all customers into their restaurants, including members of the homeless community, and that at no stage were either of these customers asked to leave.

"As part of a routine clean in the store, our employees asked the customers to move to a different table whilst a section of the restaurant was closed off. This was met with an adverse reaction by the customers who then chose to leave the store."

Alicia's online post reads: “The tears of humiliation and shame he cried outside your restaurant for being ejected from your premises (albeit not forcibly) made my heart sad and my spirit angry. Angry for the injustice in this world, angry for those kids who become homeless through no fault of their own.

“But the prevalent emotion I felt was embarrassment. Embarrassment that one of the largest franchise' in this country, if not the world, could employ a policy that shames the rejected and dejected and makes them feel even more worthless than society in general does already.”

Alicia stated in her post that she does not blame the staff members, but the company.

“I blame [McDonald’s] for not ensuring that your staff aren't adequately trained to know that it is the height of ignorance and bad manners to put "caution - cleaning in progress signs" around the seats that contained myself and James (in an almost empty restaurant) as if we had contaminated the area by our mere presence in your restaurant.”

“I was ashamed and embarrassed that a fellow countryman, a fellow human being, cried outside your store today. It was a heartbreaking sight.

“To anyone who has donated McDonald's vouchers to my appeal, I thank you. To those who donated cash, I'll now be spending it in Burger King or KFC on your behalf instead,” her post finished.

Since the post, the ‘reviews’ section of the McDonald’s Facebook page has been inundated with negative reviews.

Alicia’s post has been shared over 13,000 times and donations to her appeal keep coming.

She also got in touch with the management at the restaurant to discuss the matter with them and “try to turn this negative experience into something positive.”

Alicia has said that anyone who wishes to help with her appeal can donate through Paypal to aliciagayson@hotmail.com; all funds from this account will go to The Light House on Pearse Street, who feed and clothe Dublin’s homeless.

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