In the video, a male staff member calls the woman a “piece of junk”. He threatens her with violence. They argue, and then he hits her – and she falls backwards.

The assault in the video, which was filmed by the woman’s partner, took place in August, she says, at O’Shea’s hostel on Merchants Quay. 

In the video, staff tell the woman to leave the homeless hostel. But she refuses, asking them to first find her a bed in another hostel, which staff should do according to the national standards for homeless accommodation. 

From there, the situation escalates.

For years, those who have stayed in homeless hostels in Dublin have reported feeling unsafe and experiencing violence, and raised concerns about the standards in – and the training of those working in – these facilities. 

The woman in the video, Mairead, says these concerns are justified, and that treatment by staff has worsened. 

She says she’s been homeless on and off for 18 years, since she was 14 years old. “I’m telling you in the past five years the staff in these hostels have totally changed,” she says. “They don’t care what they say.”

A spokesperson for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), which oversees homeless services, says it is aware of a “very serious and distressing incident that occurred in O’Shea’s”.

The DRHE understands that the person has made a complaint to Gardaí, and DRHE has been in contact with Gardaí also, said the spokesperson. “It is our understanding that the staff member involved no longer works for the company.”

DRHE named the owner of “O’Shea’s accommodation for couples” as Nedsay Ltd. Nedsay Ltd didn’t respond to queries, sent on Thursday 31 August and Friday 1 September by email, and by phone through their accountants. 

An escalating incident

The DRHE, which manages homeless services for the four councils in Dublin, placed Mairead and her partner in a homeless hostel above O’Shea’s pub on Merchant’s Quay, she says. 

When they arrived in the hostel, Mairead says they were thoroughly searched, which she thought was unusual.

Later they went out and came back in again, she says. After that, the staff asked the couple to leave and said that they were using drugs, says Mairead. 

In the video, one male and one female staff member with key cards around their necks are standing in a bedroom. 

“You fucking leave,” the male staff member says. 

“I want a warning and I want it in writing that I have to leave,” says Mairead. “You give us another bed or else I’m not going to the streets for you when you hit me.”

She refuses to leave, insisting that staff should secure her a bed in another hostel first. “You’re leaving me with nowhere to go for no reason, not a chance guys,” she says. 

She says she has done nothing wrong and she claims that the male staff member has already hit her. 

“Hit me again, hit me again you prick, for nothing. I want another bed, I don’t care if you hit me,” says Mairead. 

“You don’t need a bed,” says the male staff member. “You are a piece of junk. You get out.”

They argue about whether he has hit her. Her partner advises her to leave, he also says that the male staff member dragged Mairead off the bed. 

“You grabbed her and fucked her off the bed,” he says. 

Mairead says that the incident is being recorded. “It’s on the video again,” she says. 

The staff member says that grabbing her isn’t the same as hitting her. The male staff member then says he will hit her if she doesn’t leave. “I will hit you and crush you in  bits if you don’t leave now,” he says. 

Mairead still refuses to leave without alternative accommodation. “I won’t leave, I want a bed, no I fucking won’t,” she says. “I won’t sleep on the streets just because you are mean.”

Her partner repeatedly says she should go. “Walk out the door,” he says. 

Mairead asks for the Gardaí to be called. “Get the guards.”

The female staff member says they are being asked to leave because they were caught using drugs. Mairead asks to see the drugs. 

“You have them hid, so we can’t show them to you,” says the female staff member.

Mairead says to the male staff member: “You hit me for nothing, you are a liability, you are a liability.”

He says: “Stop roaring to me.”

Mairead walks close up to him. “I’m standing up for myself,” she says.

He hits her forcefully, which knocks her backwards onto the floor. 

“Oh my God,” she says. “Oh my God, get the police.”

What happened next?

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing says it “has been in contact with the DRHE in relation to the very serious and distressing incident that occurred in a private emergency accommodation setting in Dublin and it is of serious concern to the Minister”.

The department is satisfied that the DRHE is taking appropriate action to respond to the incident, said the spokesperson. 

The DRHE said it wouldn’t respond to follow-up queries sent on 30 August asking what action it is taking to ensure something similar cannot happen again, or what support it has offered Mairead since the assault. 

“DRHE have nothing further to add to the response issued on Wednesday 30/08/23,” said a spokesperson.

The DRHE has not responded to queries as to whether other staff called the Gardaí or tried to get medical attention for Mairead, or when the DRHE staff learned about this incident. 

Last year, an expert group chaired by Minister for Housing Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien decided against mandating that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) inspect homeless hostels.

But DRHE recently appointed a private company, Eamonn O’Boyle and Associates, a consultant for fire safety, engineering, events and public safety, to carry out inspections of homeless hostels. 

A spokesperson for the DRHE says the company reviewed the incident. “And reported that the staff response was unacceptable and not in accordance with Standard Operating Procedures.” 

The DRHE did not respond to a request for a copy of the standard operating procedures.

Since at least 2018, the DRHE has been contracting private companies to run homeless hostels. This year, it began to roll out training for staff in private hostels.

“The DRHE and the HSE provide an ongoing comprehensive training programme for all staff in services, including managing challenging behaviour and drug use,” said a DRHE spokesperson.

“All complaints received by the DRHE are investigated and we strongly encourage service users to use the complaints process,” they said.

The DRHE has not responded to queries as to whether the staff member who hit Mairead was trained and Garda-vetted. 

Mairead says when she left the hostel, she had to sleep on the streets. 

After that, the DRHE offered her and her partner a bed in another hostel, but they had to leave that hostel during each day, only returning to sleep at night, she says.

She thought that was unfair, and so they left and are currently sleeping in a garden shed, she says. 

Mairead says she has slept outside on and off since she was first homeless at age 14. She had a council tenancy at one stage but she handed back the keys around five years ago, she says. 

Staff in hostels used to be more professional, says Mairead. “There used to be some boundaries with them, but it’s gone so unsafe now.”

Two sets of standards

The conflict appears to have escalated after Mairead’s insistence that the staff should secure her a bed in another hostel before evicting her.

In the video, before the assault, Mairead says: “I want a warning and I want it in writing that I have to leave.” 

She repeatedly says she will leave if staff secure her a bed in another hostel and that she doesn’t want to go back to sleeping on the streets. “I want another bed, we are entitled to it, we done nothing wrong.”

Getting a reason in writing, and being offered another bed, is in line with procedures set down in the National Quality Standards Framework for Homeless Services.

According to those standards, all services should state clearly in writing what their admissions policy is and on what grounds a person can be excluded from the service.

Excluding people from a service should only be done as a last resort and the person should be informed in writing as to the reason, it says. “There is a documented escalation procedure when the needs of the person cannot be met within the service.”

Staff should also support the homeless person until they get them into another hostel, including in cases where they have decided to end their accommodation, those standards say. 

But this National Quality Standards Framework for Homeless Services doesn’t apply to private hostels, such as O’Shea’s, just to those run by charities. 

While both the Minister for Housing Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien, and the DRHE, said at one time that it did apply to private hostels, the DRHE now says that it doesn’t. 

Instead, the DRHE has published a different set of standards for private hostels. These don’t detail how staff should handle situations like ending a resident’s stay in a hostel. 

The DRHE didn’t respond to queries as to whether it has communicated to people experiencing homelessness which standards they should expect in which hostels.

In any case, the standards to which private hostels are subject highlights the requirement for “person-centred services, which are safe and effective, and support the rights and equal treatment of persons at-risk-of or experiencing homelessness”.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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