Taoiseach rejects accusations he personalised death of Cork homeless man

Taoiseach rejects accusations he personalised death of Cork homeless man

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has denied accusations that he “personalised” the death of a homeless man in Cork at the weekend.

Timmy Hourihane had been homeless for some time, having failed to get accommodation after a number of attempts.

On Saturday, passers-by raised the alarm when they saw his tent on Mardyke Walk on fire.

He was found unconscious and later died at Cork University Hospital.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin (Justin Farrelly/PA)
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin (Justin Farrelly/PA)

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin accused the Government of “victim blaming” Mr Hourihane over Mr Varadkar’s comments about the homeless man in the Dail.

Mr Martin also accused Mr Varadkar of not showing urgency on the homeless crisis, adding that Mr Hourihane is the sixth homeless person to have died in Cork so far this year.

Mr Varadkar sympathised with Mr Hourihane’s family, and asked people to come forward with information.

“Suffice to say that anyone who has information as to who was responsible for killing this poor man should share that information with the gardai,” he said.

“As you know, I’m always reluctant to talk about individual cases. But most of this information is already in the public domain. And when you do read about it, it is a truly sad story. A real human tragedy.

“Mr Hourihane  was treated for addiction for over a year and after that was discharged to the care of his family. 

“He was offered an apartment but never took up the apartments, and for that reason that was passed on to somebody else.

“He was supported by homeless charities on a number of occasions over the course of the past two years.”

“So we have somebody whose family really tried to help them, who was helped by the housing charities, who was helped by addiction services, and was also provided with an apartment or funded by government, but unfortunately this does demonstrate how complex the problem of homelessness often is how hard it can be to help people,” he added.

“We should never give up trying to help people no matter what the circumstances in relation to the wider issue of homelessness. As you know, we’ve acknowledged on many occasions as a government that this is a problem that we’re really struggling to solve.”

In response, Mr Martin said he did not think Mr Varadkar’s reply was appropriate.

“I think the death of Timmy Hourihane revealed the fragility and vulnerability of people who are homeless. I don’t believe in blaming the victim of this attack,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Government is increasing funding for homeless and support for the homeless agencies, but it is “only treating the symptoms, not the underlying problem”.

He added: “To treat the underlying problem, we need to build a lot more social housing, and we have now embarked on what is the biggest social housing programme in many decades.”

However, speaking to reporters after Leaders’ questions, Mr Varadkar was asked if he wanted to apologise to the family after reflecting on his comments in the Dail.

He denied that he “personalised” the death, adding that Mr Martin brought up the individual case.

“What I did in the Dail I think was very appropriate, was to express my sorrow, to extend my sympathies to his family and friends and call on everyone to cooperate with the gardai so we can find out the person who committed this,” he added.

“I think it was Micheal Martin who linked it to government funding. That’s just a statement of fact that the government provided funding for addiction service which he availed of and that the government provided funding for an apartment that was offered to him.”

More on this topic

Homeless charity hit out at council's reaction to homeless campaign on Ha'Penny bridgeHomeless charity hit out at council's reaction to homeless campaign on Ha'Penny bridge

Taoiseach: Cork man's death 'demonstrates how complex the problem of homelessness often is'Taoiseach: Cork man's death 'demonstrates how complex the problem of homelessness often is'

Family of homeless man killed in Cork plead for people to give any assistance they can to gardaíFamily of homeless man killed in Cork plead for people to give any assistance they can to gardaí

Family of man killed in Cork city tented village 'are naturally devastated'Family of man killed in Cork city tented village 'are naturally devastated'


More in this Section

Gardaí investigating passport fraud make an arrest in DublinGardaí investigating passport fraud make an arrest in Dublin

Report calls for the abolition of direct provisionReport calls for the abolition of direct provision

Finance Minister 'trying to hide' €24m payment to Aer Lingus and RyanairFinance Minister 'trying to hide' €24m payment to Aer Lingus and Ryanair

NI parties clash over Brexit and Westminster representation during TV debateNI parties clash over Brexit and Westminster representation during TV debate


Lifestyle

They’re the best air purifiers around so we should grow more houseplants all year round, says Peter Dowdall.Not just for December: The reason why she should grow more houseplants all year round

Let's face it — for the first few years of a child’s life you can dress them exactly how you want to.Alison Curtis: Clothes shopping with your young girl can be a tricky thing to do

Lizzo, Demi Lovato and Ashley Graham are among those prompting us to practise a little more self-love.5 times celebrities reminded us to be body positive in 2019

Wondering about wine for the big day? Leslie Williams has all the options, for every taste and budget.Something from the bar: The perfect drink selections this Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner