Gardaí in Cork have interviewed people who were in the tented village on Mardyke Walk where homeless man Timmy Hourihane suffered a fatal assault on Sunday morning, as it has emerged that a ‘dangerous element’ had moved into the area in recent weeks.
Supt Mick Comyns confirmed that gardaí have conducted interviews with people present at the site on Saturday night and Sunday morning, and renewed the Garda appeal for people staying in guesthouses in the area to contact them with information.
The appeal comes as Táiniste Simon Coveney conceded there “are far too many people who are homeless in Ireland” but insisted the financial resources and policies are in place to tackle the crisis.
Meanwhile, people who supported those who were living in the tented village said the manner of Mr Hourihane’s violent death has sent shockwaves through their community.
Sources familiar with the city's homeless situation said a "dangerous element" had moved into the encampment in recent weeks and those who have lived there for months will probably move elsewhere now.
Ali Hamou, who has been delivering food to the homeless there for months, said:
They feel our streets are no longer safe. It has happened many times recently - homeless people got attacked by some drunk men.
"Tim came to us for food. He kept to himself, he was a very good man."
The Irish Examiner first reported on the emergence of the tented village in August.
At the time, 17 tents were pitched on open green space and nearby scrubland.
Those living there had a communal barbecue with cooking utensils, a toilet area screened by sleeping bags, and an area for drying clothes.
They described it as “their safe haven and their sanctuary”, especially for those who wanted to avoid the various homeless shelters for whatever reason.
One man said: “We look after each other and look out for each other. It is our sanctuary."
Another said: "You hear them say there is a bed for everyone. But it’s a mattress thrown down on the floor. They’re like sardines in a can in some of the places. I’d sooner take my chances out here than in there."
His partner said she had seen fights and had been robbed in one of the shelters and is afraid to go back there.
“I sleep better here. I feel safer here,” she said.
Speaking at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg, Mr Coveney, a TD for Cork South Central, described Mr Hourihane’s killing as "shocking" and expressed his condolences to those who knew him.
“I would say this is another reminder of the vulnerabilities of people who are homeless, whether they be in emergency accommodation which sometimes too can be difficult or whether they are rough sleeping or sleeping in tents, we have an obligation to get people into homes,” he said.
“There are far too many people who are homeless in Ireland, and it needs to remain an active priority for the Government to provide homes for people who need them and can't afford them on their own. And this I think is another very tragic reminder of the consequences of having too many people homeless and in particular people who are rough sleeping or sleeping in tents, which is totally unsuitable accommodation.
“But look, the financial resources are there, we have a housing policy which is going to deliver a lot more homes, but that's not going to bring back Timmy Hourihane unfortunately. His tragic and violent death is something that I think has touched an awful lot of people in Cork,” he said.