A PRIEST who helped a homeless man by giving him a place to stay for two nights before he died has appealed for people to show compassion over Christmas.
Michael Costello (41), originally from Kanturk, Co Cork, had been staying in the home of parish priest Fr Michael Noonan in Raheen, Limerick, when he was found dead at around 10am yesterday.
Gardai are not treating the death as suspicious.
"This is a very sad time for me and for all concerned," said Fr Noonan.
"This man has come to me for help on a number of occasions over the last seven years but I had not seen him for about seven months until he turned up recently.
"I helped him get accommodation, but two nights ago he asked could he stay a night or two.
"I have a spare room and offered it to him. He was delighted with having a bit of company and a warm bed to put his head down.
"He told me that for the first time in a long time he felt secure."
Fr Noonan said he was deeply saddened by the death, but consoled by the fact that Mr Costello died "knowing there was a welcome for him" and said he was now "at peace".
"I would ask that people keep him and others who find themselves homeless or in other vulnerable situations in their thoughts and prayers, especially at this time of year," he said.
The Bishop of Limerick has asked the people of the diocese to pray for Mr Costello.
Expressing his sympathy, Bishop Brendan Leahy said it was a stark reminder that, despite all the good work of agencies across the country, many people are still vulnerable in Ireland.
"Our first thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased and with those who have offered their support over recent trying years for him," he said.
This is a reminder of the difficulties that some people in Ireland face today.
"In praying for his soul and recognising the sadness of his death, we are at least consoled by the fact that he was shown care at the end of his life.
"In asking for prayers for the deceased, I would hope that his death will be a reminder to us all of the need to make room in our lives for those who are down on their luck, in whatever way, this Christmas."
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council also expressed sympathy to Mr Costello's family.
"He had used homeless services in Limerick but hadn't presented to services here in recent times as he had returned to his centre of interest in Cork where he was fully accommodated by Cork City Homeless Services," said the spokesperson.