Homeless death toll mounts as Minister bemoans phone calls


Three homeless people have already died and more deaths are expected as an icy winter spell grips Ireland.

The latest death took place in Cork, where Kathleen O’Sullivan, aged 44, perished overnight in a doorway on Lower Oliver Plunkett St, a busy city-centre street.

Ms O’Sullivan, pictured top right, was known to homeless services in the city. Christina Chalmers of Helping Cork Homeless said she had been unwell at the time of her death but had been turned away from a shelter.

“Her own aunt died seven years ago, in the very same doorway,” she said. “My fear is that this will become a common thing and we won’t bat an eyelid. Kathleen deserves more than that.

“She once shared a room with a girl with mental health issues and suicidal tendencies, and contacted us to help her. She was a kind, caring, soft-spoken lady. I don’t want her to become just another statistic. She had her demons, as do we all, but she was a lovely lady.”

An Irish homeless man in his late 50s, who died while sleeping rough in Ranelagh, Dublin on Tuesday, was on a “priority” list to be housed but was also turned away due to the lack of an appropriate space. The second man, a Lithuanian national in his late 30s who had been sleeping rough at the Four Courts, died on Monday night.

Eight people have now died on the streets in the 26 Counties since August.

The Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) group expressed fears over further deaths with a record number of homeless on the streets.

“This death is another indictment on the lack of service provision being provided by the State,” said ICHH chief executive Anthony Flynn.

“Homeless services are in turmoil, with extra beds not coming online quickly enough. We have weather warnings throughout the country and rough sleeping is at peak levels.

“We require an immediate response or we will have more deaths on our streets. ICHH would like to offer our sincere condolences to the deceased lady’s family and friends.”

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy expressed sympathy and condolences to the O’Sullivan family, but said it was also painful for him. He said that as one of the first people to be notified about the circumstances of a death of a homeless person, “it is a very difficult phone call to take”.

Sinn Fein spokesperson on housing, Eoin O Broin said the government’s approach to the crisis is not working, adding that it has yet to explain why only 600 of 1,800 ready-to-rent properties offered for sale to the government have been purchased.

“These are properties that are ready to move in to and the government is reluctant to acquire them - despite funding not being an issue,” he said.

“More of these units could have been bought to get homeless families and individuals out of emergency accommodation and into permanent secure homes, which is current government policy.”

Saoradh blamed a culture of landlordism and neglect in the Dublin parliament for the deaths.

“The free state government have no reason to change this situation, nor do the opposition parties,” they said.

“It is not a change of government that Ireland needs but a change of governance. Until a true republic, led for the people and not the elites is built, we can expect more deaths on our streets”.

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