Artist Laura Fitzpatrick (above) with her work entitled ‘A Silent Scene’ on the pavement outside the steps the doorway of Molesworth Street, Dublin. where Jonathan Corrie was found dead a year ago today.
From top: The doorway where homeless man Jonathan Corrie was found dead on Molesworth Street, Dublin last year; Fr Peter McVerry
On this day last year, Jonathan Corrie was found dead outside a doorway on Molesworth Street, just metres from Dáil Éireann.
Today, on Jonathan’s anniversary, a protest will take place at 5pm outside Leinster House over the homeless situation in Dublin.
In light of this, campaigner for the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry spoke to Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier.
During the interview Fr McVerry explained that the Dublin Homelessness Executive last night carried out their second yearly count of rough sleepers in Dublin – the same night 100 new homeless beds became available.
Fr McVerry also noted that 50 people, who sleep in the Merchant’s Quay night café, should no longer be excluded from the count.
From the interview…
Cathal MacCoille: Exactly one year ago, the body of Jonathan Corrie was found lying in a doorway near Leinster House. A series of Government initiatives followed but the problem of homelessness remains. The Dublin Homelessness Executive carried out one of their twice-yearly counts of people sleeping rough in the city last night. The result will be known in a few days… There was a series of initiatives, as we all remember by Government-sponsored, including over 200 beds made available for the homelessness, made within a month after Jonathan Corrie’s death. But, generally, one year on, how do we stand?”
Fr Peter McVerry: “Well the situation is much, much worse, one year on, than it was this time last year. There was 271 beds open, within four weeks, they were all full and the numbers on the streets were beginning to climb again. The numbers sleeping rough now are pretty much at the same level, if not higher, than they were this time last year. When Jonathan Corrie died there were, on average, about 40 families a month becoming homeless. At the moment, the average number of families becoming homeless is 73. So things have got much, much worse.”
MacCoille: “And yet I mean the pace of it and the need is still as great as ever, the pace of growth. But the Government would point to the action on not rent control but on rent certainty – a bar on rent increases for two years. The modular homes – prefab homes, whatever you want to call them, 22 to be available at the end of the year and more coming in the new year. So how would you compare what they’re doing with the need?”
McVerry: “Well, what they’re doing is welcome and it will make a difference in time but it is far, far too little. The rent certainty is only for a two-year period and the other options are really not significant. They will make a difference, like the deposits will be held by the Private Residential Tenancies Board rather than the landlord because the landlord, that’s a huge problem for tenants, trying to get their deposit back at the end of the tenancy. So there are a number of measures that will make a difference to tenants. But really, it’s going to make very, very little difference, given the scale of the problem. We need far, far more radical action than there’s being taken at the moment.”
MacCoille: “By that you mean…”
McVerry: “I think there are a whole lot of measures. I think we need to prevent the financial institutions evicting tenants when they repossess landlords’ homes and they’ve fallen into mortgage arrears. We need to expand the mortgage-to-rent scheme, to avoid families being thrown out of their homes when they’re repossessed. I think we need to bring in legislation, compulsorily purchasing empty homes, people who have property and it’s just lying empty and they’ve no plans to do anything with it. I think they should be compulsorily purchased. The voids, the empty local authority buildings that exist, and there’s a huge number of them around the country, they ought to be brought back into operation as rapidly as possible and I can’t understand why they’re not being renovated and used again, as quickly as possible. There’s a whole lot of measures that really need to be taken and they need to be taken all together to try and alleviate the crisis that we have. There will be 100 new beds opening, actually I think they opened last night, 100 new beds, to get people off the street and that will be very welcome but it won’t get everybody off the streets and the numbers sleeping on the street are far higher than 100 and we have to include 50 people who go every night to the Merchant’s Quay night café. That’s a night café – they can spend the night there, they can sleep on mats on the floor. They are excluded from the rough sleepers’ count but they really should be included because they don’t have a bed for the night. And, indeed, if 50 people sleeping on a floor in a large room is a scene we associate with The Philippines after a hurricane, rather than Ireland in the 21st century.”
MacCoille: “…There are people who don’t want to be in any kind of sheltered accommodation at all, who feel safer out on the streets. Now is that because the right kind of accommodation is not available?”
McVerry: “Absolutely. Most of the emergency accommodation that is available is of an appalling quality. It is dormitory style, you’re sharing a room with maybe three or four or five or more other people, you don’t know who you’re sharing with, you can have people who are drug-free sharing a room with three or four people who, in the middle of the night, will be injecting heroin. Who will be offering you drugs, who may even be pressuring you to buy drugs from them. People are often attacked in those dormitory-style rooms; they feel very vulnerable, intimidated and, certainly, some categories of people, particularly, the younger people and more vulnerable people, just feel terrified in those dormitory-style accommodations. And they prefer to sleep on the street than go into those… and I can understand that. The least we can do, and it’s only a question of money, it’s not a big deal, the least we could do is give everyone their own space; to give them a place they can go into at night, lock the door, and feel safe, know they’re not going to be attacked during the night and know that their belongings are still going to be beside the bed in the morning, when they wake up. That’s the least we could do for homeless people at night time.”
Members and supporters of Hope 4 Homeless joined some of the family of the late Jonathan Corrie and cast members of Love/Hate for a sleep-over at the doorway on Molesworth Street, Dublin where Jonathan died.
From top: family members of the late Jonathan Corrie, daughter Natasha McNeill, Catherine McNeill [Jonathan’s partner] and son Nathan McNeill; volunteer Laura Willoughby; from left: Dotty Langan, John Connors, Barry Keoghan, Alan Lennox, Steven Clinch and James Ward.
Jonathan Corrie (above) and the doorstep on Molesworth Street (top) where he was found.
Via The Kilkenny People:
The only harm Jonathan Corrie ever did was to himself.
Many of us who knew him through the Kilkenny District Court know what his family went through and how they did all in their power to help him.
They were always there in the body of the court, willing to go bail for him, whenever he needed them to do so. However, from an early age he was gripped by alcohol and then drugs. It was his way of coping and his way of masking his shyness.
Jonathan Corrie was a fine cut of a man when he was young always in a T-shirt, he never felt the cold.
He was extremely quiet, a bit of loner. He didn’t seem to understand what was going on in court when he was being prosecuted for being drunk and disorderly or petty theft or rather had he decided at an early age, that he himself was a lost cause. Looking back, it is simple to see now, that Jonathan Corrie didn’t fit in.
…From 16 years old onwards, he was a regular in Kilkenny district court and whatever petty crime he was responsible for, he owned up to it. There was absolutely no guile in him and I always felt that he was a tortured soul and really didn’t understand the world around him. The supports were not there for him.
A tribute (top) to Jonathan Corrie (centre) at the doorstep on Molesworth Street, Dublin where he was found dead yesterday. The dedication was read out by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams in the Dáil this afternoon.
Postponed: Ceann Comhairle has postponed turning on of Christmas Tree lights following the tragic death near Leinster House yesterday
Sophie Pigot, the woman who discovered John Corrie’s dead body yesterday spoke to Sean O’Rourke on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One this morning.
Sean O’Rourke: “Yesterday morning a man was found on a Dublin city centre street. His name was Jonathan Corrie. He was only 43. The person who found him joins me now. Sophie Pigot, good morning to you. You were on your way to work yesterday, you were making your way through Molesworth Street in Dublin city centre, what made you stop?
Sophie Pigot: “Good morning. Hi Sean. I stopped, just because I saw a man lying in a very uncomfortable looking position and I was stopping to see if he was okay to see if everything was alright, there was no, no particular reason I just, he just looked like he was very uncomfortable, he was lying on his face and it looked like it was quite uncomfortable, there was a lot of weight on his fingers they were kind of bent backwards…”
O’Rourke: “So what did you do, Sophie?”
Pigot: “I went over and I tried to speak to him, I said ‘Sir’ a few times, ‘Can you hear me, are you okay Sir, are you all right?’ and he didn’t answer so I placed my hands on his back and he just…when I felt his back, it just didn’t, it didn’t feel right, now I didn’t stay for very long, I didn’t have my phone charged so I ran across the road to the Dail because it was the location of… the building was right opposite, it was, you know, the nearest group of people that I knew I could ask to borrow their phone or something so I went in, the receptionist greeted me and addressed me to a guard whom I informed ‘I think there’s a man very injured or sick, there’s something wrong he’s lying on the ground, please can you call an ambulance?’and then the guard was unable to leave his post where he was, I said ‘I don’t know if he’s dead or not’, so I ran back over while they were calling the ambulance… just to check and see how he is so I went back over and did the same thing and then I put my hand on his back again and I felt for his pulse, there was no pulse he was cold, I was quite sure he was dead at that point then.”
O’Rourke: “So what did you do at that stage, Sophie?”
Pigot: “Well, I was just standing there, I didn’t know what to do, all I knew was there was a man, I suppose, open to the world here, a really sad moment, so a couple of people had arrived, then three others, and I ended up then just going across to Buswells, they kindly gave me a tablecloth, like a tablecloth, just to put over him in dignity and I just waited then for the guards to arrive and in the meantime the group of people who I was standing with, they had recognized him and that he had a friend he was often seen with, another homeless man, they went and got him, he arrived and at that stage the guards were there, they took a couple of our details. I just left I didn’t know what else to do I suppose.”
O’Rourke: “Sophie, I understand you are in your mid twenties. I’m wondering what training you have had what gave you the confidence to check Johnny Corrie’s pulse?”
Pigot: “Well, I’m a part-time… I’m a avid surfer and when I was younger I used to teach surfing so I’m a trained lifeguard, so I have kept that up you know throughout the years or however, just do retraining every year so I’ve been trained in it, so it was just an immediate reaction my main worry was, you know, I didn’t know if he was alive or not and I didn’t want to be standing there like a useless person waiting for an ambulance if the man wasn’t alive, you know, in the cold it was quite a cold morning yesterday, you know and he was an very uncomfortable position but…”
O’Rourke: “It wouldn’t be unusual not by any manner or means Sophie to see a man slumped on steps on that general area but something, there seems to be something about what happened yesterday that made you stop?”
Pigot: “I don’t know what it was, like people keep asking me why I stopped, but it’s kind of reflective the last few days, why don’t I stop, I pass people crying on the street as in actually crying, and I really don’t know how to answer that question, he just looked like he was very uncomfortable, if he had woken up the least I could do buy him a coffee or something, you know, I would have, that would have been more what I was expecting would happen, be on my way not think twice about it.”
O’Rourke: “How long did you remain there at the steps was it until the ambulance came or not?”
Pigot: “When the guards arrived, it was quite obvious he was covered by the sheet at this stage but they confirmed that he was, it was obvious he had passed away so… I found him at just around ten to eight, I left the scene by half eight.” O’Rourke:“And how were you affected by this afterwards? How did you get on during the rest of the day and say last night?”
Pigot: “During the day I suppose I was just in shock, it’s not really something you bring up in meetings or at work, I’ve class till… I’m in King’s Inns ,over the other side of town until late anyway. I didn’t really process it till last night when I was back in my house, really you just realize how unbelievably lucky you are and I mean, also I got so many…what a response… people are saying to me really kind words but I don’t deserve them I just kind of was there, and it just makes you realise that people do care… I suppose we… it’s become acceptable to act like homeless people are invisible and I think when people look at themselves in the mirror we realise that and that’s what I feel right now.”
O’Rourke: “What would you like to come out of this experience and this event?”
Pigot: “I’m like literally a kind of … my own personal view now, I think that we’re a tiny country, this man could be my second cousin, you know, it’s absurd that we as a society have become immune to this situation, so whether that’s, whatever you’re working, whether you’re a politician or whether you work in the civil service, whether you’re working or not working, so, you know that we start to address this situation, like I mean there are fantastic organisations out there like Focus Ireland or the Simon Community and many others and I think the issue needs to get the attention long-term, I think I caught the end of the news there, I think, I don’t know what it was, but I think I heard someone saying, this has to be a long-term approach, we can’t all stand in glass houses and blame other people, I mean it’s a shopping period now for about 23 days, we’re going to spend an enormous amount of money on family, friends probably maybe even a colleague or two and there’ll be these people perfectly visible round us and we seem to feel like they’re invisible, myself included.”
Sophie Pigot is rightly praised for not stepping over Johnny’s corpse and instead getting a policeman at Leinster House to call for an ambulance – but is this what we have come to?
Have we fallen so far as a society that we must make a heroine of someone who does exactly what one is supposed to do when they see another human being in need?
Johnny Corrie died in a Dublin doorway on December 1 2014, but he didn’t die alone.
Every one of us played a part in creating the country in which he could die so publicly, so helplessly, so needlessly. We all stood over him as he passed on.
And none of us did anything, and now it’s too late.