Family of woman who died in tent in Cork appeal for privacy

Death brings to three the number of homeless people to die in Republic this week

A view of the River Lee in Cork City. Photograph: File/Bryan O’Brien

A view of the River Lee in Cork City. Photograph: File/Bryan O’Brien

 

The family of a homeless woman who died in a tent on the southside of Cork city on Friday have issued an appeal for privacy as they grieve their loss.

A source in the city who has been in touch with the family said they want to mourn their loved one without the added burden of press attention.

The body of the woman, who was in her 30s, has been released to a local undertakers with burial to follow next week.

It is understood she may have been living in a flat in the city up to recently.

However, she was evicted from the flat in recent days and had been sleeping rough.

The alarm was raised at 2am on Friday and she was taken from the tent in Gillabbey Park on the southwest of the city to Cork University Hospital. She was unresponsive and was subsequently pronounced dead. Her death is not being treated as suspicious.

A postmortem has been performed but the cause of death has not been determined. Toxicology tests will be carried out but the results will not be known for some time.

It is understood that she did not have serious issues with hard drug use or alcoholism but had instead lived an “unsettled life” marred by personal difficulties. She accessed emergency accommodation in the city a few years ago and was subsequently housed.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, said he was shocked to hear of the loss of such a young woman in tragic circumstances.

“I am saddened to hear of the death of this young lady in her relative youth. She had a lot of life ahead of her. My sympathy goes out to her family, friends and extensive family.”

Cllr Fitzgerald said different models of accommodation ought to be looked at to prevent further tragedies.

“We are heading into autumn now and with the winter period coming you just can’t have people out on the streets.”

Fiona Corcoran, chief executive officer of the Greater Chernobyl Cause in Cork said she plans to meet Cllr Fitzgerald later this week to discuss the homelessness crisis.

“This is heartbreaking – 2017, a member of our community living in a tent. This lady died homeless and alone,” she said. “I am responsible,you are responsible and we are responsible. We must act. I will meet with our Lord Mayor this week to discuss the urgency of providing emergency accommodation for our fellow brethren.”

Meanwhile, local Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary has offered his “heartfelt sympathies” to the family.

“She was only in her 30s. You have another family waking up to this news. It is so very sad for them. In my background as a community worker I deal with 100 people a week facing homeless issues. The legacy of our time will be homelessness. So many people are forced into homelessness. There are too many vested interests in this country. I have been hardened in ways as a community worker but I am heartbroken from dealing with this.”

Homelessness supports

Communications manager with Cork Simon Community, Paul Sheehan, said it was a huge tragedy to see a woman lose her life in such circumstances.

“It is very sad. We would like to offer our condolences to the woman’s family and to anyone who knew her. It is a tragedy for a woman so young to lose her life on the streets and any support we can offer the family we would be happy to do so.”

Mr Sheehan said he did not believe the woman had accessed their services in recent times.

The Department of Housing also said the woman in Cork had not been in receipt of homelessness supports “even though such supports and emergency accommodation were available yesterday evening in Cork City”.

The death has caused considerable shock in the city. Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, said he was deeply shocked by the news and that his thoughts and prayers were with her family.

Independent councillor Mick Finn said the death was a “damning indictment of the Government.”

“No more excuses. Three people dead in a week because the Government cannot meet the the most basic of human needs. Immediate action needed, not grand plans that Ministers stake reputations on because those reputations count for nothing.”

Cllr Finn added that the Government should use State and clerical buildings to provide emergency accommodation.

The death brings to three the number of homeless people to die this week following the death of a man in his 50s on Suffolk Street in Dublin and a mother-of-two in a hostel in Co Kildare.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has conceded that the Government is facing difficulties addressing the homeless crisis. He said a lot is being done to help but more assistance is needed, a sentiment that was echoed by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy on Saturday.