Category Archives: Dublin City University

The homeless hero John Byrne after the media attention

John Brnye on Henry Street

On the third of July this year John Byrne got the attention of the national news media after rescuing his friend Barney from the river Liffey. The event stood out because John is one of Dublin’s homeless citizens and Barney is his pet rabbit.

I decided I would like to sit down with John and find out more about him and had his life changed since he had his 15 minutes in the spotlight.

When interviewing, it’s generally easy to arrange a date and a venue. How do you interview a homeless man who is always accompanied by a rabbit and a do?

One evening I said hello, dropped some change and then set down beside John in an alcove at the end of Arnott’s shop front. It felt surreal in a way, sitting beside a homeless man on a busy pedestrian street as hundreds of commuters and shoppers walked past; voice recorder in hand hoping that all the noise would not ruin the interview.

Hi John, I am a student journalist and I was hoping I could have a quick chat with you. 

Sure no problem.

Would you like a cup of coffee and a sandwich or a cigarette?

No thanks I’m grand and I need to stay here tapping. It’s been quiet so far.

Tapping? Is that what you call begging?

Ha, ah yea, people would think I have loads of money if they see me smoking or eating.

So this is your famous rabbit?

This is Barney; I bought him seven months ago in a pet shop. Some young fella walked up and grabbed Barney and threw him over the bridge. He was meant to be up in court last week for animal cruelty but it was postponed.

So you risked your life and jumped into the liffey, why?

Because he is my child, I love him and I just wanted to save him. I didn’t think I just jumped.

How did you manage to do that?

When I jumped in it was deep, the water went over my head and I touched the bottom. Barney was ok. He was swimming, keeping his head up so I grabbed him and made it to a ledge and held on till the firemen got out to me in the boat.

Were both of you ok?

Grand, just wet.

How did you cope with all the attention?

Ah it didn’t bother me; I’m used to people looking at me. I got hundreds of letters from all over Ireland and from America saying how great and how brave I was. The animal charity gave me the award and some food for Barney and they said that they would get me and my pets a place to live.

Did they?

No. I haven’t heard from them since the day I got the award. 

Does that annoy you?

Yea but it was fine. I have learned not to expect good things to happen for me.

When did you end up living on the street?

I ran away from home when I was thirteen. I had to get away from my stepfather.

Do you still have contact with your mother?

I see her the odd time, she lives in Clondalkin but she is still with him so I can’t go there.

What’s the worst part of sleeping rough?

Ah you get used to the people trying not to look at you. Sleeping on Grafton Street I got pissed on. It’s not very safe. I’m living now in a tent on waste ground behind the Hill16 pub with my girlfriend and nine pets.

Nine pets and a girlfriend, it must be a big tent.

Well we have three rabbits, four hamsters and two dogs. The tent is a big ten man tent so we are grand. I met her on the streets, she’s from Lithuania. She came here three years ago looking for work but found nothing and ended up homeless.

So she is unable to get social welfare, do you?

No she doesn’t and she can’t afford to get back to Lithuania to see her kids. I get the dole.

So basically you are begging to support your animals and your girlfriend? Is it worth it?

Yea, I love them all they are my family. I go out tapping everyday from four to seven. Here or at Londis at Temple Bar. I might get forty euro a day doing it.

Do you abuse alcohol or drugs?


If your girlfriend got pregnant what would you do?

I would get a place to live straight away. I would have to.


I just would. I had a place last Christmas but after it the landlord kicked us out. He knew about my pets from the start but then he changed his mind and kicked us out.

So what does the future hold for you? What do you look forward to?

Nothing, just getting by. No point having dreams. Just maybe try to save up some money. We are fine in the tent. We are warm. Just hope winter’s not as cold as last year when we had the flat.

I had to leave John after twenty minutes and let him tap in peace. I got the sense from John that he was genuine in his answers and that as a human being he was no waster or a drain on society, just a man trying to cope in the circumstances he grew up in. He is thirty-eight years old, homeless since the age of thirteen due to an abusive home life.

I emptied my pocket, slipped him my packet of cigarettes and wished him all the best. No doubt I will see him and Barney again.


Emmanuel School of Mission

The Emmanuel School of Mission from Rome were on the DCU Campus Monday. Its a programme of study for students wishing to explore their faith and learn how to spread the word of God in their communities.
Myself, Nicola Keating and Kate Patterson went out to find out about their trip to Dublin and DCU.

The group will be visiting schools and institutions in Dublin until Thursday.

For more information visit the website:


Irish children seeking fame and fortune

Children in rich countries want to be pop-stars and sport-stars while children in poor countries want to be doctors and lawyers according to a survey published yesterday.

A survey of 4,600 children across the world has revealed almost one in three Irish kids (30%) wants to be an artist and almost one in five (19%) wants to be a professional athlete when they grow up. The story is very different in developing countries where children would prefer to be teachers (23%) or doctors (20%).

The survey was carried out by ChildFund Ireland, an independent Irish registered not-for-profit organisation. They assist children, families and communities in Africa, Asia & the Americas and are funded by child sponsorships, project grants from the Irish Government and Irish Corporations.

According to ChildFund the survey is one of the most comprehensive polls of children’s views in the world. The global survey, Small Voices, BigDreams, polled children aged 10-12 from 44 countries – from Ireland to Zambia.

3,613 children in developing countries and 979 children in developed nations were asked 6 open-ended questions, i.e. no suggested answers were given. The children were asked questions such as what do you want to be when you grow up and what you would do as a political leader to change children’s lives.

Another question asked was what do you most worry about and the poll found that Irish children (19%) worry more about war and terrorism then children in developing nations (14%). Getting sick is the biggest worry for those in the developing world. (23%)

Children in the developing world also seem to put more emphasis on studying with 17% choosing it as an activity if given the choice to do anything they wanted for the day. Less than 1% of Irish children would choose to open their school books.


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in charity, children, Dublin City University, Ireland


Stopping the vicious circle before it starts

The issue of young offenders appears in Irish courtrooms on an almost daily basis.

In 2008, 111 teenagers were remanded in custody for crimes they were accused of committing. After a conviction a judge can choose to send the young person into an institute or give a suspended sentence. Judges realise that this can often be the first step on a road to a life of crime and will often look to try and divert that course by calling for a probation report to assess the person’s situation and what would be the best resolution for a case.

St. Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders

The probation service in the department of justice was given a range of measures by The Children Act 2001 to develop a modern and conscientious framework to deal with the problem of youths breaking the law. The act sets down detention as been the last option and legislates to deal with the problem at a community level. A probation officer can advise a judge that in some circumstances a teenager getting into trouble with the law could best be helped with a positive role model. This is where Le Cheile comes in.

Le Cheile, the Irish for together, was set up in 2005 to create a mentoring service to people aged 12-18 in probation. The Children’s Act 2001 states, “The role of a mentor is to help, advise and support the child and the child’s family in its efforts to prevent a child from committing further offences and to monitor the child’s behaviour generally”.

Le Cheile is a limited company with charity status which receives funding from the Department of Justice. During the economic downturn it has seen its funding cut by 7% year on year. They recruit volunteers over the age of 20 to act as mentors and role models and full training is provided. A mentor and a mentee are matched by similar interests and backgrounds and meet weekly for 2-3 hours for a period of 6 – 24 months. The mentor will look to develop a relationship with the young person, listening to and offering advice and helping them in areas such as lifestyle choices, education and training and communication skills. They take part in activities of their choosing such as going to the cinema or playing pool and all costs are covered by Le Cheile.

“If it wasn’t for Mary I don’t know what I’d have done,

I’d probably be inside now”

Julia Alexander the mentoring manager says the best thing about the programme is that, “ these kids have adults talking to them all the time, they have doctors and social workers that are paid to try and help them but they sit up and listen when they see that a person is willing to volunteer their time to help”.

Since 2005 there has been many success stories and the participants’ admit it themselves. Martin says, “if it wasn’t for Mary (mentor) I don’t know what I’d have done, I’d probably be inside now”. Lisa says “mentoring is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” It’s not just the teenagers who have a positive experience, Matthew Doyle a mentor in Waterford feels “the experience of being a mentor has had a really positive impact on me”.

A common trend in many of the teenagers involved is an unstable family background. Le Cheile tries to help with this also by offering mentoring to parents faced with the challenges and stresses of having a child on probation. A parent mentor, again an unpaid volunteer over the age of 25, will meet regularly with the parent to offer support and guidance and discuss parenting issues.

Le Cheile has 3 projects in Dublin with places for 30 children and 15 parents. In the Laois/Waterford area they can work with 15 young people and 5 parents. In Cork they work with 20 children and 10 parents and in their Limerick project they have 10 places for teenagers and 10 for parents. They also have a restorative justice programme in Limerick to help offenders face the victims of their crimes. Anybody interested in volunteering can check out the website


Le Cheile head office staff, Julia Alexander Mentoring Manager

Le Cheile participants’ and mentors with names changed to protect identity


Ireland’s greatest Liverpool player? Well he’s my favourite

I’m 28 years old so I can’t claim to have witnessed every Irishman who has pulled on the famous Liverpool shirt. In my time however I have had the great fortune to watch the great Ronnie Whelan playing for Ireland and Liverpool.

Ronnie Whelan was born in Dublin into a family of footballers. His father Ronnie Senior, also played for Ireland and had a successful career in the League of Ireland playing for St. Pats in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ronnie’s brother Paul also played in the League of Ireland, pulling on the jerseys of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

Ronnie was a talented youngster and came through the youth teams of Home Farm and made his breakthrough into the senior side at the age of 16. He may have being young but his skill on the ball and his willingness to work for the team caught the eye of all the English scouts.

It was the legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley who managed to lure Ronnie from his comfort zone at the tender age of 18. The price of the move was a bargain, £35,000. Ronnie was now surrounded by the cream of English football on the training ground and set about improving his game and not being over-awed by his surroundings.

His hard work paid off when he made his debut in April 1981 in Anfield and scored in his first game. It was a dream start and set the standard for his future Liverpool career. Throughout the 80s he established himself as an integral part of the Liverpool team. In the process he won 6 league titles, 2 FA cups, 3 league cups and 1 European Cup.

In total Ronnie made 362 appearances for Liverpool and scored 46 goals and was voted 30th in Liverpool’s top 100 by the fans on the club website. Along the way he collecting 53 caps for the Republic and scoring 3 goals. The most important and memorable being his volley from outside the box against the USSR in the 1988 European Championship.

I was a little boy in 1988 but I remember seeing that goal a lot and I remember the World Cup in 1990. I was a Liverpool fan by birth and an impressionable young boy during Ireland’s adventures in Italy in 1990. I was so proud of Ireland and I was so proud of the Irishman who played for Liverpool and scored that fantastic goal.


Next season is always the best

What a difference a new manager can make to a football team. If the season had started when Kenny Dalglish took over In January only Chelsea would have more points than Liverpool.

The last four games will have been very enjoyable for Liverpool fans, the draw with Arsenal and wins over Manchester City, Birmingham and Newcastle. Twelve goals scored and only one conceded. The standard of the performances in this period provides great encouragement as thoughts begin to turn to next season.

Suarez - The new Kenny Dalglish?

The team plays with much more pace and movement now than under the previous management but in order to produce the pass and move football Liverpool fans expect two unsung heroes have emerged, the central midfield pairing of Lucas Leiva and Jay Sparing.

When Dalglish first took over he was willing to start Spearing, a young bit part player for the last few seasons and a product of the youth academy. He started in two started in two of the biggest games of the season, at home to bitter rivals Man United and Everton. In my mind Spearing was the “victim” of affirmative action or “reverse racism”, getting to play for Liverpool because he’s a scouser and would give more heart in the local slugfests compared to those fancy-dan foreigners.

Now my opinion of him has changed, just like the views held by other fans for the much maligned Lucas. I was sick of defending Lucas but this season I think he has won his sceptics over and the club have given him a new long-term contract and he’s a regular in the Brazil team.

Lucas and Spearing

Lucas and Spearing have been the foundation for the attacking drive of Meireles, Kuyt, Suarez et al. Sitting in front of the back four Spearings’ tremendous work-rate, covering the space of the forward moving full-backs, and tenacity in the tackle is the perfect spoil to Lucas’ holding the centre and quick distribution to the attacking-minded players.

The team’s lack of wingers is made-up for with the inter-play and switching of positions by the full-backs and the attacking quartet. It may be an overstatement but it’s almost like watching the Dutch total football of the 70s. Is it just a coincidence that Dirk Kuyt has been in his best form ever for Liverpool?

It’s definitely the Liverpool way and hopefully with a few big signings in the summer Liverpool will be picking up more points than Man United and Chelsea. The biggest signing is now just a formality, King Kenny been appointed permanent manager.

Long live the King



Bring back The Act of Union of 1801

I am 27 years of age unfortunately, its not nice to think i will be 30 soon but in my time as a student of life , history, politics and a proud Irishman i have come to one startling conclusion. With all that this country has achieved since it became independent and all that has happened recently all i can think is its time to bring back The Act of Union of 1801.

The good old Act which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its sounds so distinguished and makes Ireland sound important. We support british football teams, we watch stupid british talent shows and soap operas on tv, we speak their language and have a history going back over 800 years.

We have a symbiotic relationship with the UK, they are by far our largest trading partners. Since we left the UK this country has done nothing but stupid things like rip up the worlds best tram system to only come along 70 years later and spent a fortune on the LUAS. We sold the rights to our oil and gas fields and let the Spainish and French take all our fish.

If we were back in the UK we would again be part of one of the worlds leading countries instead of fannying around trying to be the 51st state of the USA or part of the United States of Europe bowing to our German overlords just like Hitler had intended.

I really dont like brockwurst but I do enjoy a Yorkshire-pudding with my sunday roast so bring back the Act of Union!!

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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Dublin City University, humour, Ireland