Friday 19 October 2018

'He was a quiet and gentle soul' - Brother of Paul Sheehan (53) who died on the streets on St Patrick's weekend

Paul Sheehan was found dead on Wandesford Quay in Cork in the early hours of Sunday morning
Paul Sheehan was found dead on Wandesford Quay in Cork in the early hours of Sunday morning

Sasha Brady

The brother of a rough sleeper who died on the streets of Cork during last week's bitterly cold St Patrick's Day weekend paid tribute to him, describing his brother as a "quiet and gentle soul".

Paul Sheehan (53) was found dead on Wandesford Quay in Cork during the early hours of Sunday morning.

His older brother Gerard described him as a "gentle soul" as he paid tribute to him this morning.

Gerard said that Paul suffered from alcoholism from an early age and had been in and out of treatment for the past 23 years. He said Paul had everything to live for and a family who loved him but "drink came first".

"Drink would strip you of everything," Gerard told the Neil Prenderville Show on RedFM. "I'm not just talking about material things, I'm talking about morals, self-respect, everything."

Gerard said that despite his brother's addictions, he was an "honest and respectful man" who had never been in any trouble and never asked anyone for help.

Along with his brother Anthony, Gerard would check on Paul every second day and take him to guesthouses or hotels in the city. They provided him with a mobile phone so he could contact them if needed.

Paul would often call into Caitriona Twomey at Cork's Penny Dinners, a centre in the city which aims to give everyone who calls a hot, nourishing midday meal.

Gerard said Caitriona often assisted the family in trying to find accommodation for Paul, even using her credit card at times to secure bookings.

He said that Paul knew he was always welcome in his family's homes but he was usually reluctant because he was aware that no-alcohol rules applied there.

"Drink comes first with an alcoholic, plain and simple, before love, before family. There were nights when he would want a bed and they were the nights I knew he would be bad," he said.

"He wouldn't go home because drink took away his self-esteem and his self-worth. He didn't want his family to see him and I understood because I used to be like him."

Gerard revealed that he also had problems with alcohol but is now recovered after undergoing treatment. He said he always feared that his brother would never recover.

"I was different to Paul, drink got me later and I believed there was no such thing as a hopeless case, and I actually believe that, but Paul is the nearest thing to one that I ever saw," he said.

He said that during the bitterly cold St Patrick's weekend, his brother was turned away from two hotels and four guesthouses. The first guesthouse and the first hotel had been booked in advance on a credit card but Gerard said when his brother arrived he was turned away.

On the morning that Paul passed away, Gerard and Anthony combed the streets of Cork trying to find their brother. He had moved from the usual spot where he would sleep in order to find a quieter spot with fewer passers-by. Gerard said he sometimes did that if he had been attacked during the night.

"Most people were very good to him but some people who were drunk, would kick him, abuse him, take his money."

His brother was a vulnerable man and walked with the aid of two walking sticks but he had sometimes been beaten with hammers and hatchets.

A garda found Paul in the early hours of Sunday morning, at approximately 7am. The brothers were called and they arrived on the scene shortly afterwards.

"It wasn't nice to see your brother like that, with a blue blanket thrown over him," said Gerard.

While the Sheehans are morning the loss of Paul, Gerard said he hopes his brother is at peace now.

"I saw the pain gone in his face when I looked at him in the coffin yesterday," he said.

It's believed that Paul died as a result of hypothermia but the family are awaiting the results of a post-mortem.

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