Homeless man in serious condition after tent lifted during canal ‘tidy up’

Leo Varadkar says tents checked before removal but ‘obviously something went wrong here’

An investigation is underway after a homeless man was left in a serious condition when a utility vehicle removed his tent while he was sleeping it during a "tidy up" of the Grand Canal walkway at Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2. Video: Collins

 

A homeless man is in serious condition in hospital following an incident with an industrial vehicle near the Grand canal in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.

The man was in a tent that was removed by a utility vehicle during works being carried out by Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland at Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2.

The incident happened between 12pm and 1pm on Tuesday afternoon, and the tent was located at the Leeson Street Bridge end of the canal.

It is understood that a vehicle with a mechanical arm and claw was used to remove the tents that were along the area, before lifting them and placing them into a truck for disposal.

Waterways Ireland were removing the tents while staff from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) were present to assist roughsleepers in the area and placing them in emergency accommodation.

A statement by the gardaí said: “A man (age unknown) was sleeping in his tent when it was being removed in an attempt to tidy the canal walkway. The man received injuries during this incident.”

The man was admitted to St Vincent’s University Hospital where it is understood he underwent surgery. A Garda spokesman said he is in serious but stable condition.

Assistance

A spokeswoman for the DRHE said they are assisting the gardaí with their enquiries.

“An incident occurred yesterday involving a homeless man on the Grand Canal during a process where Waterways Ireland were removing tents that were placed in a precarious and dangerous location,” the spokeswoman said.

“An individual was injured during the process and was taken to hospital. The [DRHE]have been engaging with the individual for some time and accommodation remains available to the individual.”

The spokeswoman added that the executive is currently liaising with the hospital and “every support is being provided”.

“Our thoughts are with the man. It should be noted that every action that is taken by State services is taken in the interest of health and safety of those individuals experiencing homelessness,” she said.

In a statement, Waterways Ireland said: “Waterways Ireland and Dublin City Council/Dublin Regional Homeless Executive work in co-operation to remove tents along the canals in Dublin where they have become a public safety hazard.

“ On the 14th January an incident occurred at Leeson Street, on the Grand Canal. Our thoughts are very much with the individual who was injured.”

The statement added that the company is “co-operating fully” with the garda investigation, and that it is “obliged to not comment further” while that investigation is ongoing.

‘Horrendous’

The scene remained closed on Wednesday morning as gardaí carried out a technical examination. Belongings and debris from the scene were collected and bagged for additional examination.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which investigates workplace accidents, said it was also investigating the incident.

Eoghan Murphy, the housing minister, said he was “saddened to hear of the incident by the canal”.

“My thoughts are with this poor man as he recovers in hospital. I’ve demanded a full report in to the incident which is under Garda investigation,” he posted on Twitter.

He added that his campaign poster, which was located on a lamp post at the scene, has since been removed.

Speaking after Fine Gael’s election launch in Monaghan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “concerned” about the incident and called on Paul McAuliffe, the Dublin Lord Mayor, to make a statement.

Mr McAuliffe is a Fianna Fáil candidate in Dublin North West in the general election but Mr Varadkar denied that he was attempting to make the incident political.

“No, I didn’t mention blame at all,” Mr Varadkar told reporters. “I think it is reasonable that the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who is politically accountable for Dublin City Council, should also make a statement. I am sure he would be willing to do that.”

In response, Mr McAuliffe said later he was “disappointed that the Taoiseach went down this road today.

“A man was seriously injured and yet An Taoiseach appeared to be more interested in apportioning blame to someone else.

“Waterways Ireland carried out the works this morning. Officials from the Dublin Regional Housing Executive (DRHE) were on the scene to support any homeless people with accessing accommodation.

“I understand due to the precarious location of the tent, Waterways Ireland decided to make use of a mechanical vehicle. All of these details will now be the subject of a Garda investigation. There may be an election ongoing at the present but a human being has been seriously injured this morning.

“That was my first concern when I heard about it, and I wanted to find out the details and so I have asked for a full report. It seems that the Taoiseach’s first thought was to play a political game.”

Mr Varadkar said he had heard what had happened on Wednesday morning, “and needless to say I am very concerned about it”. However, he said he was always loathe to comment on any individual cases until the full facts were known.

“We know from experience that the initial reporting can often be different from the later reporting, but what I have been told so far is that a man was injured while Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland were trying to remove some tents.

“He is in a serious condition but is stable. He is well known to homeless services and has been offered emergency accommodation in the past and accommodation in the past and will be offered it again in the future.

“Our thoughts are with him, we hope we makes a speedy recovery and we will do everything we can to make sure that he is accommodated.

“My understanding is that the City Council and Waterways Ireland did check the tents before removing them but obviously something went wrong here, so I think it is important that the City Council and the Lord Mayor, who is politically responsible for the City Council, should make a statement and Waterways Ireland too.

“We will do everything we can to reduce rough sleeping. I remember when we took over the housing department over three and half years ago, there were over 160 people sleeping rough on streets in Dublin. That is now down to 92. There is more work to be done but we have made more progress.”

Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South-Central, described the incident as “scary”.

“We see tents all over the city in recent years. It’s scandalous in itself. But for a man to be injured while he’s sleeping in his tent just because people want to clear the streets,” Mr Ó Snodaigh said. “Somebody has to answer for this.”

“I’m aware of others who have their tents removed. People go to get food, or clothes and then when they come back and there’s nothing there. We need to change the attitude of our society. People don’t think about those who are less fortunate,” he added.

Joan Collins, Independent TD for the area, said “serious questions need to be asked”.

“This situation is horrendous. I think there needs to be serious questions asked about this. It is reprehensible that it wasn’t checked first,” Ms Collins said.

“We need to look at what Dublin City Council workers were instructed to do, how were they instructed to do it, and was [SIC]there checks on the tents beforehand or why wasn’t there.”

Inner City Helping Homeless said this is not the first time that homeless people’s tents were disposed of without their consent or knowledge.

“While we are glad to hear that no one died last night, the fact that someone was seriously injured when their tent was removed as they slept in it is beyond disgusting,” a statement said.

“Where is the humanity for other human beings? We hope the man makes a full recovery but answers are needed.”