‘We’re supposed to be the country of a céad míle fáilte, we can help everyone.’
Brídín Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh from Gaoth Dobhair was studying in Dublin four years ago. Twice a week, she walked down Molesworth street in the city centre to her part-time job. The street was lined with up to 40 people on any given night, sleeping rough in the cold.
Brídín was so moved by the sights, and the reactions of passers-by, that she had to put pen to paper to express her emotions.
“You can give someone a few euro, a cup of tea and a sandwich, but you can’t give to everyone. That street really broke my heart.
“Seeing people not looking at them or paying attention really upset me,” Brídín told Donegal Woman.
The death of homeless Jonathan Corrie outside Leinster House spurred Brídín to write a poem of hurt, anger and fear – Ag Siúil na Sráide (Walking the Streets)
Four years on, as the homeless crisis continues, Brídín added her words to a video filmed on the streets of Galway for Bloc – TG4’s new social media channel. In the midst of twinkling Christmas lights and cheery shoppers, the poem’s heartbreaking plea speaks volumes.
Video by Róisín Ní Thuairisg @BlogTG4
“I decided to tell someone’s story to give this issue a voice,” she said.
The story follows a young girl who was brought up in foster care, she went through school. She was academic and hard-working. At 18, she moved out and got a job, unfortunately when the economy collapsed it was a case of first in, first out.
The girl has nobody to fall back on and nowhere to live. She started to take drugs to try and numb herself from the horrors around her.
Brídín explains the anguish of the words: “The judging eye is what’s causing her the most pain. People think she must not have tried to work, but it was a case of the inevitable for her. There was nothing she could do.
“The finishing verse says: Here I stay, with another day ahead of me and nobody to hear my plea. Is the whole world deaf, without the hope of friendship, what lies ahead?
“The darkness is closing, suffocating me, taking over me,” she said.
Brídín’s hard-hitting verses resonate in many more ways today. Now living in Galway, the Ros na Rún star has seen a rise in rough sleepers in the city in the past two years. She remains angered by peoples’ attitude to homelessness, and more recently, to asylum seekers.
She said: “One thing that’s really frustrating me at the moment is the Donegal hotel that is taking in refugees. People have commented that we should be helping our homeless first.
“But why can’t we help everyone? We’re supposed to be the country of a céad míle fáilte, so many Irish are immigrants abroad. Let’s help everyone, there are so many empty houses, there is space.”
Brídín is hoping the poem and video can tackle common misconceptions about homelessness. She is also encouraging people to donate to homeless support charities this Christmas.