Leo Varadkar’s minority government in Dublin has been accused of crassly ignoring the housing crisis amid a spate of deaths among homeless people.
Three died this week, including a man, Jack Watson in his 50s in Dublin city centre and an unnamed mother of two in a hostel in County Kildare.
The latest victim, a woman, was found in a tent on the western side of Cork city at about 2am on Friday. It is understood she was living in a flat in the city up to recently but had been forced to take shelter in a small shanty town near the university.
“This is heartbreaking - 2017, a member of our community living in a tent. This lady died homeless and alone,” said local charity leader Fiona Corcoran.
Former Green Party TD and Senator Dan Boyle said that it is to “our shame” that a woman’s life should end like this.
There are fears of an epidemic of deaths this winter. Amid a continuing surge in homeless to over 10,000, the number of homeless children in Ireland alone has tripled in the past year along to 2,985, and some may be out on the streets in the worst of the weather.
“We’ll have children [sleeping] on the streets by Christmas,” warned Dave Nugent of Inner City Helping Homeless.
Earlier this week, homeless man Jack Watson died on Suffolk St in Dublin city centre. A vigil was held outside the Dublin parliament, where many remembered him from his stay in Apollo House last winter. He briefly found shelter in the abandoned building after it was dramatically occupied by trade unionist Brendan Ogle and a group of celebrities.
“Jack Watson, a person, died on your watch Leo. This was a human being that we lost,” said Alan Buckley, one of those attending. “He was one of us. These are people, they are not cattle, they are not chattel, they are not garbage.”
Mr Buckley said he had chatted with Mr Watson on the street a few times.
“People like this are just being lost. Before you’re a homeless man, you’re a man. This man worked in Australia. He was a chef. He had a life. But he’s going to go down as a statistic. That’s not okay,” said Mr Buckley.
The vigil took place yards away from where Jonathan Corrie died in a doorway in the shadow of parliament. His death in 2014 was followed by promises of emergency meetings and urgent measures.
This week brought the same. Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, who recently claimed to be at a loss about what to do, announced an emergency “housing summit” of local authorities.
But on the day Mr Watson died, the Taoiseach concern’s were elsewhere. Varadkar tweeted : “Still remember where I was the moment I heard Diana had died. Hard to believe it’s twenty years.”