Solicitor questions arrest of homeless man

A solicitor who represents a homeless man living in a tent on a Cork city quay has criticised the State for arresting and jailing his client for begging rather than tackling his problems.

Solicitor Daithí O’Donnabhain spoke out after Josh O’Donovan, 23, was remanded in custody over the weekend. He was arrested on foot of an outstanding bench warrant for begging.

Mr O’Donovan, who is one of a group of people living in tents on Cork’s St Patrick’s Quay, and who was featured in Saturday’s Irish Examiner, is due in court again this morning.

He told this newspaper that he has no money, no food, no home, and no hope, and that he has turned down a bed in emergency shelters, for personal and for safety reasons.

Mr O’Donnobhain said that it has likely cost the State a substantial amount of money, in recent months, dealing with his client through the courts system.

“The cost of this would have put him in rented accommodation for several months,” he said.

“It would be interesting if there was some analysis done to assess what assistance has the State given to him to help him deal with whatever difficulties he may have.

“And, at the end of all this, the ridiculous courts-fine system will most likely see a fine imposed on him today, a fine he has no hope of paying.”

Mr O’Donovan, a father of one who is originally from West Cork, was arrested in the city centre on Friday nigh by gardaí from West Cork following a court hearing in Bandon on Thursday.

He was due in court that day, after pleading guilty earlier this year to driving offences, including driving under the influence and driving without a licence.

Mr O’Donnabhain said his client’s difficult personal circumstances meant he was unable to attend court in Bandon on Thursday, and penalties were imposed in his absence.

However, when gardaí checked his file, it was discovered that he was a suspect in another matter, in which he denies involvement.

Gardaí travelled to the city and arrested Mr O’Donovan on Friday night, and took him to Bandon Garda Station for questioning, where it was then discovered that there was an outstanding bench warrant for his arrest, in relation to an alleged begging offence in Cork city earlier this year.

He was brought before a special sitting of the district court in Bandon on Saturday in relation to that matter, where the court was told there were eight outstanding warrants for his arrest and several no-shows for various court dates.

Gardaí objected to bail and Mr O’Donovan was remanded in custody to appear before Cork District Court this morning in relation to the begging charge.

Mr O’Donnobhain said his client is “down on his luck” and had nowhere to turn and had no option but to beg.

“He has enough difficulties. He is not a bad young fella,” he said.

Meanwhile, Solidarity has condemned continued calls by Fine Gael councillor and former lord mayor Des Cahill to clear the tents from the quays.

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said it appears Mr Cahill would prefer the housing crisis “to be hidden and inoffensive to him”.

“He does not want to see the reality of the policies his party presides over,” she said.

Ms Ryan also dismissed city council claims that there is a bed for every homeless person in the city and that anyone who turns them down is therefore homeless by choice.

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