Former prisoner's emotional reunion with good Samaritan who bought him a flight home to Ireland when he had nothing
An ex prisoner who says a random act of kindness helped him turn his life around has been reunited with the man who came to his aid him during his darkest hours.
Shane O'Neill from New Ross served two prison sentences - one in Ireland and another in Belgium - after becoming caught up in drugs at a young age.
After being released from prison in Belgium, Shane was left in a bleak situation and said a kind hearted gesture from a fellow Irish man inspired him to transform his life for the better.
Speaking on RTE One's Liveline: Call Back, Shane said he began to reevaluate his life after he was imprisoned in Belgium and availed of the counselling and psychotherapy services that the system offered.
After five months, Shane was released without money or accommodation in Brussels. He sought the help of the Irish Embassy but was worried to discover it was closed until Monday - a whole weekend away.
Speaking on the programme Shane said: "When I rang up my mother when I was in the Belgian prison, she didn’t want anything to do with me so I knew myself it was my addiction and being with the wrong people and the wrong situations, she was fed up of it.
"Over there they do rehabilitation, they work with you one to one. The first day I met with a drug counsellor and I had regular psychotherapist sessions and weekly group meetings.
"It really made me think 'What are you doing with your life Shane – here you are in Belgium, locked up again'.
"I needed to knock it on the head and bite the bullet and get my life back together.
"I had to try and make my way to the Irish Embassy in Brussels because they let us out of that prison with no ticket and no money.
"I made it to the Irish Embassy – it was closed and not open until Monday morning.
"I didn’t know what to do so I kind of walked around then for a while. I got a few Euro here and there off people, begging along the way. Then I had to find somewhere to sleep that Saturday night and Sunday night. The Irish embassy opened up at 9.30am on the Monday morning."
Shane said he was lucky to cross paths with good Samaritan Charlie Kiernan, a Dublin man who offered to help him in his hour of need. Worried that Charlie would judge him if he told him he had been a prisoner, Shane instead told Charlie he had been robbed.
"He was the first fellow that ever put his hand out to help me," said Shane.
"We got into a conversation and he said, 'Do you want me to book you a flight home tonight?' I said 'You'd hardly do that for me?'
"I wasn’t after eating since Friday. I had only eaten small bits over the weekend. He said: 'You must be hungry are you?' And I said, 'I’m starving.' He said 'Do you want to come with me? I’ll get you something to eat.'
"He brought me up to an Irish pub and he got me a full Irish breakfast. I was delighted to see the food. We got up to the airport and he got me something to eat there and he bought me a few pints and we just waited on the flight."
Once the pair arrived in Dublin, Shane asked Charlie for his address so that he could repay him for his generosity and was shocked when he refused, insisting Shane use the money to help someone else in need in the future.
"It made me think the whole way home. I said, 'This man is my saviour, now I’m going to really change my life."
Charlie and Shane were reunited for the first time on Thursday's episode on Liveline: Callback, one year after Shane shared his story on Joe Duffy's popular radio programme. Upon returning to New Ross, Shane made an effort to change his life, cutting ties with his old social circles and repairing the relationships with his family, which he says he has Charlie to thank for.
"I’m back in full time employment since, which a year ago I wouldn’t have been able. Now that I’m clear of drugs and cigarettes and everything my head is clear now. Positive thinking and I’m after turning my life around I reckon. I did it myself with the help of my family. The one thing I had to do was stop being around the people I was with."