STAR actor Cillian Murphy took a break from the stage yesterday to help Focus Ireland launch a public awareness campaign for the homeless.
The Cork-born star of movies such as 'Intermission' and '28 Days' - and who will appear in the The Playboy of the Western World, to open in the Gaiety Theatre tomorrow - appealed for urgent action to tackle the problem. Reading from a script, the actor appeared surprisingly nervous and later apologised for "the fairly wooden delivery".
He said he chose to highlight homelessness because it was an issue affecting so many young people, his own peers included.
The 29-year-old actor said he is personally affected when he walks past homeless people, lying or sitting on the streets of Dublin and Cork.
The new awareness campaign by Focus Ireland uses an innovative twist on tourist plaques which mark the places where famous people once lived - by using the names of homeless people instead.
More than 100 replica plaques will be put up on benches, in archways and alleyways, places where homeless people frequently take refuge from the cold and the rain. Cillian was joined at the launch by Des Hirsch, who was homeless and living in his Mazda 323 car in a Clontarf, Dublin car park for 15 months after he lost his job and his house due to illness.
With the help of Focus Ireland, Des has since secured a flat and also got a job through the publicity that surrounded his dilemma.
Des believes it took him longer to find the supports he needed because "I did not fit their stereotype. I was middle class, well-educated and fairly well-dressed".
One day, Des just broke down with the frustration of everything that had happened to him and shortly afterwards secured permanent accommodation.
Cillian said Des's story proved that "anyone can become homeless".
The Focus Ireland campaign, which will be featured on billboards and in the press, insists that "Everyone has a right to a place they can call home".
Orla Brady of Focus Ireland said it was disappointing that Ireland is still one of the few European countries without a right to housing, either in legislation or in the Constitution.
The latest figures reveal that there are 5,581 homeless people, a record and 48,413 households on housing waiting lists.