The Rescue Man


John Byrne on Connell Bridge,  Dublin in 2011

John Byrne at the Royal Canal yesterday


Royal Canal, Dublin 7

Members of the Polish community in Dublin donated a new tent and provisions for John Byrne who has been homless for 25 years. J

ohn famously saved a rabbit from the River Liffey in 2011.

Sam Boal, of Rollingnews, writes:

As a press photographer I cover a lot of different events; including a lot of heartbreaking stories. This is one such heartbreaking story. John says he has been homeless for the last 25 years.

He’s now living in a tent on the side of the Royal Canal beside Mountjoy Prison, with his mate Daryl and his dogs. I have to admit before doing this assignment I was a bit nervous to approach it.

Everyone has their own idea of what could happen and what people might be like. At first I didn’t recognise John at all, but he recognised me; which took me by surprise. Quickly he let me spend some time with him, whilst members of the Polish community helped to set up a new tent and provisions which they had gathered together to help John move from a one-man to a bigger two-man tent.

John came to public attention in 2011 when he jumped into the River Liffey in Dublin to save his rabbit which had been thrown into the water.

With all the media attention and the fact that he was homeless, most people might have assumed that help for him was not far off.

Unfortunately, seven years on John is still homeless and sheltering in a donated tent.

John and Daryl are accompanied by his four dogs; most of whom have been rescued from the streets. His compassion for his animals is infectious John says that his dogs keep him safe; barking at everything.

They also keep off the massive river rats, which he describes as being two hands big, and that swarm over the canal banks in the early hours of the morning.

Dogs, we say, are ‘man’s best friend.’ For John that seems to be the case. His dogs are better friends to him than any human.

Over the course of our conversation I photographed set up shots, but the one above  was natural.

John just picked up his dog and his dog’s gratitude and love shines through. As a press photographer I try to highlight a story in the best way I can. Sometimes this requires a measure of setup due to time constraints and deadlines. I hope that this is not just a nice picture.

I hope it might just help John and those like him to get the proper accommodation they need. I am not naive: it requires more than houses to solve the issue of homelessness.

However people living in our capital city in tents – whose dogs are better friends than any human – is not my idea of a solution either.

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

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23 thoughts on “The Rescue Man

  1. Dhaughton99

    I have noticed an increase in beggars using dogs to garner sympathy around Dublin city. Two which spring to mind are the Romanian with the little black and brown dog at the top of O’Connell and the traveler who drags her kids in their school uniforms and a jacker with flowers draped around its neck up Dawson st.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Where did he say the word is not allowed? You right wingers are so sensitive and easily offended.

          1. Andrew

            Well you seemed to take exception to its use Tony. Perhaps I’m mistaken and you’re not being disingenuous.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Ah, so he didn’t say that at all. You’re just desperate to see yourself as a victim of a left wing boogeyman.

        2. dav

          Andrew is very touchy that the alt-right aren’t allowed to express their hatred. He’ll look for names next…

      1. Dhaughton99

        In my eyes, a beggar is different from a homeless person or someone who is desperately in need.

    1. Nigel

      ‘They also keep off the massive river rats, which he describes as being two hands big, and that swarm over the canal banks in the early hours of the morning.’

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      Maybe people who feel worthless and lonely enjoy the unconditional love of a dog? Just a thought.

      1. Bonkers

        Thats what I was thinking, I grew up with 3 dogs and have always wanted one of my own for about 10 years but I cant do that in an apartment. If I ever became homeless Id adopt a rescue dog straight away, your life would be hard enough and at least a dog would bring some joy. And at least a dog doesnt judge the homeless like some of the right whingers on here.

      1. dav

        it’s getting better for the banks, vulture funds and corporate tax evaders, we’re a great little country for all their scams…

  2. Christopher

    I’m sorry but no I will not blame the government on this one- there are people like John on the streets who CHOOSE to be homeless. A illuminating interview with him a few years ago:
    I don’t like that he thinks that he should have NINE pets when he doesn’t even have a warm place for them to live. He get the dole plus 40 euros per day begging yet he says he doesn’t abuse alcohol or drugs? And these no doubt nice people from the polish community him a free tent? I would say he can afford one himself. Sick of the homelessness industry and not dealing with the real issue- substance abuse and people who are no longer able to integrate into society. There will always be people like John who will remain on the fringes and there will always be charities to capitalise on that.

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