Tuesday 21 August 2018

Ruairi McKiernan: We can't turn a blind eye to those condemned to a life on our streets

A homeless man takes shelter under the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Ireland seems to be following a similar path to the US and turning a blind eye to the poor and destitute among us.
A homeless man takes shelter under the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Ireland seems to be following a similar path to the US and turning a blind eye to the poor and destitute among us.

Ruairi McKiernan

The daily sight of people battling homelessness and heroin addiction at the feet of statues of great Irish historical figures carries a sad symbolism. This was not the Ireland that O'Connell and Larkin dreamed of, an Ireland of lost souls abandoned to the mercy of a country that all too often dismisses them as junkies, scumbags and failures.

I'm often at meetings in Sean MacBride House in Temple Bar, a building named after the Nobel Laureate who also envisaged a different Ireland. Colm O'Gorman is based there, the director of Amnesty International Ireland who, as a teenager, was homeless in this same area. Upstairs in the building, looking down on the nearby alleyways, more often than not you can see people injecting themselves with a toxic escape from the abandonment, abuse and suffering that has come their way. Around the corner, life goes on in the two identical-looking Starbucks cafes that sit facing each other while the poet Pat Ingoldsby sits on the street selling his poems to a nation that needs its free-thinking poets now more than ever.

I've lived in Dublin for three years now and I can see how people become cold, hardened and immune to the growing numbers of half-conscious humans on the streets of the capital. 'I'm busy with my own worries. Someone else will sort it out,' goes one train of thought.

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