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Woman who discovered homeless man near the Dail: 'I think people think it’s OK to act like homeless people are invisible'

A TRAINED lifeguard discovered that a homeless man had died just metres from Dail Eireann yesterday morning.

The body of Jonathan Corrie who was 43, was found on Molesworth Street in Dublin city yesterday morning.

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Gardai examine scene where homeless man died

Gardai examine scene where homeless man died

The man's body was discovered just yards from the Dail

The man's body was discovered just yards from the Dail

Gardai examining scene where homeless man died

Gardai examining scene where homeless man died

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Gardai examine scene where homeless man died

The man often begged on George’s Street and York Street in the capital, and slept rough in Drury Street Car Park and on Molesworth Street, where his body was found by Sophie Pigot as she walked to work yesterday morning.

Ms Pigot, a trained lifeguard, said she noticed something was wrong with Mr Corrie, originally from Kilkenny.

He was “was lying in a very contorted way,” she said.

“His hand had gone blue. The way he was lying on the ground, it looked like it was broken,” she explained.

Ms Pigot asked the man if he was OK, but got no response. She ran across to the entrance of Leinster House and alerted the garda on duty who phoned for an ambulance.

She then went back over 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.

Ms Pigot placed the sheet over his face to cover him from passers-by and for his dignity.

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

“I think people think it’s OK to act like homeless people are invisible,” she said.

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Investigations into the death are continuing but it is not believed to be suspicious.

Lord Mayor Christy Burke today said it was “shameful” that a homeless person should die on our city streets.

“I told the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a recent meeting that there would be deaths this winter. I said it to him,” Mr Burke told the Herald.

“It is shameful that someone should die on the streets facing our parliament,” the Lord Mayor said.

Mr Burke, who volunteers with Dublin’s Inner City Helping the Homeless (ICHH), said it is time for action and not words on the homeless crisis in the city.

“I hope it is a wake-up call to our political leaders about the homeless crisis in Dublin.

“My thoughts, my prayers and my sympathies go out to this man’s family,” said Mr Burke.

“What we need is action on homelessness, not spin and talk. Only action will work,” he added.

“With political will this problem can be overcome. Without political action there will be more deaths,” Mr Burke said.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin this morning  called for a public summit – and if necessary to host it with the city’s Lord Mayor- of all those involved in fighting homelessness, together with municipal and political and business leaders in Dublin, to address the immediate question of emergency accommodation for the homeless. 

Mr Burke has since indicated that he would be open to hosting a summit.

In total, €55.5m has been allocated to the national homeless budget for 2015, an increase of €10.5m on last year’s figure.

Reacting to yesterday's death, Anthony Flynn, director of ICHH, said Housing Minister Alan Kelly must open more homeless beds as a priority. On one night last month, there were 168 people sleeping rough in the city centre.

“We’ve been told that there was 80 news beds opened under the cod winter initiative in the last three months and we have asked for a direct response from the homeless services as to where these beds are and we haven’t had a reply.

It is my belief that those beds are not there. They haven’t been made available to homeless at the moment. We had seven people on Smock Alley in sleeping bags this morning,” Mr Flynn told the Herald.

“On the cold face of it, there are nights when it is minus one out there, We have been lucky so far that we haven’t been hit by the worst of the bad weather.

“We’re walking the streets at night time and we feel it,” Mr Flynn added.

“It is Christmas month and it is about time some type of empathy was shown by the government now and the beds are actually opened up by the minister.

“Rather than promising beds he needs to show face now and get the beds open and get people in off the streets.

“It is bad enough with the cold and the rain but if we get hit by snow over the next couple of weeks people are in real, real danger.

“Somebody else will be found dead and that is the cold face of it there are no ifs, buts or ands about it.

“It has happened now we are in a situation where the minister needs to look at what is happening. Somebody is dead and it is down to the government because the beds are not being made available for people to come in off the streets at night,” Mr Flynn said.

Meanwhile, founder of Focus Ireland Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy offered her condolences to the deceased man’s family and said his death is a sign of the ‘failure of the state’.

“I’m going to say what an awful tragedy this is that somebody should die in such circumstances and so publicly and to offer my sincere condolences to the man’s family and friends,” Sr. Stan told RTE’s News at One programme.

“I think what it says is this man is like so many others, in that they are a sign of the failure of the state and a failure of the state of past and of the present to offer the support that is needed for people to live independently.”

The founder of the homelessness support agency said the government needs to realise that a crisis strategy is necessary alongside their long-term housing plan. 

“For many people living rough they need social support and help and enough is not being done for them,” she said. 

“We need to make sure people who are living in the care of the state – be it in hospitals or prisons or childcare –are not discharged into homelessness. The government should be doing a lot more.

“This housing strategy the government has launched is needed but it is a that this long-term housing plan is something that won’t come on stream for another three of four years.

“In the meantime, there are housing problems out there. There is a crisis,” Sr. Stan added.

The number of rough sleepers on the streets of Ireland is 20pc higher than what it was this year.

And a total of 158 people slept rough in Dublin on the night of November 11, according to Focus Ireland.

“As well as people living rough we have more and more families moving into homelessness every day,” Sr. Stan continued.

“Last month there were 45 more families made homeless. We need to stop this flow of people moving out into the street."


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