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

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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.

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.

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.


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