“It should be classed as litter. This isn’t a housing issue and it needs to be taken down immediately,” said Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill.
The man who lives in the structure on the wharf area of St Patrick’s Quay has declined offers to speak publicly about his circumstances.
He says his name is “no name” and he has described his living quarters as “freedom wharf”.
From the UK, he has been living on the streets in Cork for at least three years, moving from place to place.
It is believed his ex-wife and son live in the city.
He had lived in a small tent on the quayside for several months, but he fundraised to buy the larger structure after telling friends he missed being able to stand up while inside.
However, Mr Cahill said the marquee and several smaller tents which have sprouted up along the northern quays in recent months present a “poor image of the city”, especially along the quay from which hundreds of tourists depart or arrive daily on buses operating to and from Dublin.
The city needs to take action on the tent situation now, he said.
“This white marquee should be treated the same as dumping black plastic bags,” he said.
It is flouting every planning law in the city. It’s an absurd situation and this man is taking the mick. It should be removed, dismantled, thrown into the back of one of our council trucks and taken away.
He said the man had chosen to pitch his marquee on the quay, but he could choose to live elsewhere if the structure was removed.
However, homeless rights campaigner Bernard O’Hehir, who visits the occupant almost five nights a week on rounds with the Reaching Out to Homeless group, criticised the hardline approach.
“It’s a disgraceful call from a former lord mayor of this city,” he said.
Mr O’Hehir described the man who lives in the structure as a “good man”, who leads an alternative lifestyle and who has never bothered anyone. Cork Simon has also engaged with him.
He accepted that the location of the structure is a health and safety issue, being so close to the river, but he said the man’s dignity should also be taken into consideration.
“Perhaps if Cllr Cahill opened his mind and showed more understanding and compassion to this situation, it would be better,” said Mr O’Hehir.
A good message the council could send out would be, rather than just turfing these people out, maybe they could reach out to them, engage or work with them, and provide them with whatever help they might need.
“All that should be looked at first. It would be a much better sign, a small gesture to give back a little bit of their dignity.
“Adopting Mr Cahill’s approach won’t solve the problem. They will just go somewhere else, continuing the revolving door scenario.”
Up to four people are living in an eight-person tent pitched nearby, and a man and woman are living in a smaller tent, which has been pitched a short distance downstream.