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A slow death on the street in the shadow of Leinster House

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Emergency services inspect the covered body of Jonathan Corrie, which was discovered on the steps of a house on Molesworth Street, close to Leinster House. Pic Steve Humphreys.

Emergency services inspect the covered body of Jonathan Corrie, which was discovered on the steps of a house on Molesworth Street, close to Leinster House. Pic Steve Humphreys.

The body of the dead man is wheeled away by medical staff. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The body of the dead man is wheeled away by medical staff. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The steps of the house just yards from Leinster House where the man's body was found. Pic Steve Humphreys.

The steps of the house just yards from Leinster House where the man's body was found. Pic Steve Humphreys.

A syringe lies besides the remnants of the man's belongings.

A syringe lies besides the remnants of the man's belongings.

The remnants of Mr Corrie’s belongings including a toothbrush and some personal papers. Pic Steve Humphreys.

The remnants of Mr Corrie’s belongings including a toothbrush and some personal papers. Pic Steve Humphreys.

Sophie Alexandra Pigot, who discovered the body of the homeless man

Sophie Alexandra Pigot, who discovered the body of the homeless man

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Emergency services inspect the covered body of Jonathan Corrie, which was discovered on the steps of a house on Molesworth Street, close to Leinster House. Pic Steve Humphreys.

A toothbrush, a pair of crutches, a navy sleeping bag, a black blanket, two half-empty water bottles and two cardboard cups were all that he left behind him.

Amid the most tragic and vulnerable of deaths, emergency workers did their best to afford some final dignity and respect.

Four gardai held up a white sheet to conceal the body of homeless man Jonathan Corrie (43) who had passed away overnight, sitting upright on the steps of the salubrious Georgian building at the side of Kildare House on Molesworth Street.

An empty syringe lay at his feet and his slumping hand was blue and swollen.

"It's a slow death on the street. Everybody who is on the street is, in some way, fading," explained Sam McGuinness of Focus Ireland afterwards when news of Mr Corrie's death began to filter through, prompting shock among society at large. And guilt - because we all know about the problem of homelessness. And most of us ignore it.

Slowly, Mr Corrie's body was eased into a lying position on a stretcher and put into an ambulance where he was brought to the city morgue to await a post-mortem examination.

A woman passer-by saw what was happening and put her hand to her face: "Has somebody died?" she asked. "A homeless man," she said in answer to herself, murmuring: "How sad."

A garda examiner snapped several photographs of the doorstep. It took but a minute to load the man's few possessions into sturdy brown evidence bags. Moments later, the plastic garda tape was taken down. Everything was as before.

It was just before 7am when he was discovered by a passer-by, Sophie Pigot, on her way to work. By 10.40am, normal life had resumed, on the surface at least.

Hundreds of thousands of TV viewers will watch political reporters do their customary pieces to camera beside the blue door near the Dail. Few will realise that on that very spot, another victim of our society spent his final lonely moments.

On the fringes in life, in death Mr Corrie was offered humanity - but it arrived far too late.

Like many others who find themselves on the streets, Mr Corrie was battling alcohol and drug addiction and was a known heroin user.

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Adopted into a loving family, at the age of 16 he left his comfortable family home on the Castlecomer Road in Kilkenny.

Despite the best efforts of his parents, Jean and Brian, he couldn't beat his addiction demons. Inevitably he came into contact with gardai.

He had amassed dozens of convictions from a young age and, in 2007, was ordered by a judge to stay out of Carlow after a court heard he had threatened an ex-partner. The hearing took place in the same week that his father passed away.

Local Kilkenny man Alan Cooper said: "You couldn't meet a nicer family" but added that Mr Corrie had been "seriously troubled". Mr Corrie often begged on the streets and was known to sleep rough in the Molesworth Street area.

Ms Pigot, a trained lifeguard, discovered Mr Corrie's body. When she got no response, she ran across the road to the Dail to alert the garda on duty, who called an ambulance. She then returned to the man, believing he could still be alive. "I ran over and checked his pulse. He was cold. I went across to Buswells Hotel and got a white sheet," she said.

Asked why she decided to help the man when many would have passed by, Ms Pigot said she could see something was wrong.

"I think people think it's okay to act like homeless people are invisible," she said.

Additional reporting: Brian Byrne and Luke Byrne


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