Veterans to use ‘sleeping flags’ to highlight homelessness
Organisation representing Defence Forces personnel says protest is a ‘symbolic act’
New recruits: Ollie O’Connor of the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel said when they joined up, they were young fit men and women. ‘They didn’t put up their hands to become homeless veterans.’ Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Former members of the Defence Forces are to highlight the plight of homeless veterans by camping on the streets of Dublin in sleeping bags made of fabric in the colours of the national flag.
The protest is being organised by the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, known as One, which provides hostel accommodation for destitute former Defence Forces personnel, together with advice centres and lobbying more generally on behalf of former soldiers, naval personnel and members of the Air Corps.
One has dubbed the action as a “sleeping flags” protest and a “symbolic act”.
A statement from the organisation said the aim was to challenge “protocols around the treatment and representation of the Irish flag”.
The organisation said the death of two homeless veterans on Dublin’s streets was the catalyst for One setting up its first homeless hostel. It said some current and future veterans could face a bleak future if the charity was unable to remain open.
Participating veterans using the tricolour sleeping bags will be at the GPO on O’Connell Street and the Dame Street/ College Green area, and may also appear in other shopping streets.
One runs the Brú na Bhfiann hostel in Dublin’s Smithfield, which can accommodate up to 30 former Defence Force members without permanent accommodation, and others in Athlone, Co Westmeath and Letterkenny, Co Donegal. It also runs advice centres in several barracks around the country.
Ollie O’Connor, chief executive of One, said: “Our first homeless hostel opened in direct response to a number of veterans dying on the streets of Dublin. Since then, we’ve helped over 900 homeless veterans from all over Ireland who could have faced the same situation.
“These sleeping flags are bags we never wanted to make, but if we can’t get enough funding, our veterans will end up back on the streets . . . The men and women we’re helping have a special affinity with the Tricolour. These are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and our next-door neighbours who joined the Irish Defence Forces to serve their country.
“When they joined up, they were young fit men and women. They didn’t put up their hands to become homeless veterans.”