53-year-old Timothy Hourihane, known as Timmy to friends, was beaten to death in the tented village occupied by homeless people in Mardyke Walk on October 13th. He was found with severe injuries to the head and with his tent set on fire after the alarm was raised by fellow residents of the tent village. He was pronounced deadly shortly after being taken to CUH, with flowers and memorials left at the entrance to Mardyke Walk.
Reactions to the presumed-murder have varied between grief and celebration of Mr Hourihane’s life to outrage and protest against the homelessness crisis in Cork. Mr Hourihane was father of one, and formerly a chef who had worked in high-profile places, including serving Elton John. He struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his life, and was known to homelessness services in Cork.
Bernard O’Hehir, a former homeless addict who is now an activist, described Mr Hourihane as, “An absolute legend. A bit flamboyant but no matter what the situation was he was one of those guys that kept everyone else’s spirits up. He was always dancing and singing and trying to make everyone else smile.”
Mr Hourihane was interviewed when he attended the Cork Penny Dinners, run by Catriona Twomey, in 2016. “I stayed off alcohol for a year and a quarter and I was proud of that. At least I am trying,” he told the Irish Examiner. “This is relaxing and I feel safe. This is my happiest day for a long time…People are lovely.”
Activists have called for more government action on homelessness, particularly in preventing violence against homeless people. Ms Twomey, organiser of the Penny Dinners and acquaintance of Mr Hourihane, said she was deeply saddened by the death of Mr Hourihane and described the event as a warning to the government. “We need to sort it now. We need more treatment centres. We need more housing. We need more support.”
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Justice Jim O’Callaghan also criticised the government’s response to the crisis in the wake of Mr Hourihane’s death. “The failure of the government to resolve the homeless crisis is now a threat to people’s safety. Timmy Hourihane is the second homeless man to have been brutally killed in recent months.”
Councilor Mick Finn, former Lord Mayor of Cork, called for urgent government assistance to the homeless following the “terrible and shocking news”.Mr Hourihane was interviewed by RedFM in 2017, where he mentioned he did not feel safe on the streets and had been attacked three times previously. “Wandering around, basically around the whole city, trying to find somewhere where can I sleep tonight, is it going to be safe? In Cork – in most places in Cork – it’s not safe in the city centre.”
Mr Hourihane was also known to several UCC students and staff, and lived in close proximity to the BEES campus of UCC. Several UCC members have paid their respects to him.
“I walked past the homeless village everyday going to college and it seemed nice. I was happy for the people there,” said a BEES student, “It was a relief to think that the people there might be safer and more comfortable than they would be out on the streets in the city… I don’t understand why anybody would want to take that away.”
The tented village that occupied Mardyke Walk has left, with people no longer feeling safe in the area. Mr Hourihane’s tent was left standing for several days before it was removed, with a candle left burning outside it.
From everyone at the University Express we send our deepest condolences to everyone who knew Timmy, especially his family.