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Taoiseach criticised over response to question about death of homeless chef in Cork



Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Taoiseach has been criticised for giving the Dáil personal details about the life of a homeless man who was killed in Cork at the weekend.

Mr Varadkar appealed for anyone with information on the death of 53-year-old Timothy ‘Timmy’ Hourihane to help gardai as he defended the Government’s attempts to address the housing crisis.

Responding to a question from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach outlined a series of services that had been made available to Mr Hourihane. He said Mr Hourihane was offered support from charities, addiction services and “was also provided with an apartment – all funded by Government”.

Mr Hourihane was found in a critical condition in Cork city on Sunday, when emergency services were called to the scene after a tent was spotted on fire. He was pronounced dead a short time later and was found to have severe head injuries.

A number of homeless people were living in makeshift accommodation in the area.

Today the Taoiseach told the Dáil it was vital that anyone with information on Mr Hourihane’s death helped investigating gardai.

“This does highlight how complex the problem of homelessness is and how hard it can be to help people,” he added.


Strategy: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Strategy: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Strategy: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Mr Martin criticised the Taoiseach for bringing personal information into the house, saying it was not appropriate.

“I didn't delve into any personal situation,” added Mr Martin.

“I think you were wrong in your emphasis in your reply.”

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Mr Varadkar conceded the Government was struggling to address homelessness.

“The only person who's responsible for this is the person who killed that poor man. I strongly encourage anyone who has information about this to provide that information to the gardaí so that they can carry out their work and bring the person who did this to justice,” he said.

“In terms of what we're doing, we're increasing funding for homelessness supports and for the homelessness agencies.

“We've been ramping up the building of social housing year on year on year. We're now at the point where over 10,000 safe houses and apartments are being provided for people on the housing list.”

Speaking to reporters later Mr Varadkar defended his comments, but did not apologise when asked if he wanted to do so.

He said: "I don’t think I personalised it at all.

"I think Deputy Martin brought up an individual case.

"This is a very sad tragedy. It’s a homicide investigation. It may even be a murder and what I did in the Dáil I think was very appropriate was to express my sorrow that that man was killed, to extend my sympathies to his family and friends and to call on everyone to cooperate with the gardaí so that we can find the person who committed this terrible crime and bring them to justice."

Mr Varadkar was asked if he regretted linking the case to Government funding.

He suggested it was Mr Martin that did this, but it was put to the Taoiseach that he mentioned Government funding in his Dáil contribution.

Mr Varadkar said it was "just a statement that the Government provided funding for addiction services, which he availed of and that the Government provided funding for an apartment that was offered to him.

"That’s just a statement of fact. I don’t think that should be a problem to state that fact."

The Taoiseach also expressed sympathy with the victim's friends and family for their loss.

"I want to say how filled with sadness I was when I read about the killing of Timothy Hourihane in Cork. On behalf of the entire House, I extend my sympathies to his friends, to his family and to all of those who worked with him down the years."

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