The director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive has apologised to a woman who was assaulted by a staff member in a homeless hostel in early August. 

“There was an incident of violence towards a service user, which is totally unacceptable,” said Mary Hayes, to councillors on the Dublin City Council’s housing committee on 13 September. 

“But behind that, the way the service user was spoken to, even before the incident happened or escalated, is completely below the standards we would expect from anyone that we are paying public money to, to provide a service,” she said. 

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn had raised the issue of the assault at the meeting, asking if members were aware of a media report “in relation to an assault on a homeless woman in a homeless shelter, and again …”

At that point, Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland, who chairs the housing committee, jumped in: “Councillor Flynn, I’m going to ask, Mary Hayes is here and she’s going to give us a report on that.”

Flynn asked if he could finish without being interrupted. “It’s just that in relation to emergency homeless services, a lot of people sleeping in tents won’t go into these services because of such assaults and such threats of violence from individuals,” he said.

“When it happens to be a member of staff it’s a very serious issue and I would like that addressed immediately because, as I say, there is a lot of talk here about homelessness and about helping people into housing and getting them off our streets,” he said.

“And there is a lot of complaints also about what is happening in these particular environments and I’d like that addressed straight away,” he said. 

Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu, who chairs the housing committee’s homelessness subcommittee, said she was going to let Hayes come back in. 

“But one thing I will say is in relation to any issues, especially tragic issues that come up, I would ask that councillors go directly to staff and talk to the staff,” Chu said to Flynn. 

“I think approaches where we ask in this manner, on the council, where it sounds almost accusatory, really doesn’t help,” Chu said.

“And what I’ve noticed from chairing the homeless subcommittee is working with the staff has got us a long way, they’ve been very collegial and we’ve formed a very good trust and connection,” she said.

“So if you have any questions please pick up the phone to just ask Mary or any of the staff. Thank you,” said Chu. 

“This is in the public domain by the way – in the media,” said Flynn. 

Said Hayes: “Just to say for anyone who hasn’t seen it there is a video circulating online, it is, it is horrific and it is shameful, there is no other way of saying it to you.”

“Despite all of the work we have done in terms of working with private emergency accommodation operators in terms of performance, training, this is showing us that we have still a serious way to go in terms of that,” she said.

The DRHE has been contracting mostly private providers for homeless accommodation since 2018 and started training for private-hostel staff in 2023.

Hayes thanked Flynn, who she said had sent her a link to the story that morning. 

The DRHE was aware of the incident, she said, and had discussed it with staff from the HSE and the probation service.

“I apologise profusely to the person who received that treatment and we have followed up very seriously on it,” she said, as her voice became shaky. “And I would say it’s well below the standard we expect.”

Gilliland, the Labour councillor said: “I think we all appreciate your immediate action on that and I think your own emotion shows how much you care about what goes on in those emergency accommodations.”

“And acknowledge that we are working so hard on that but sadly there is, maybe one bad apple out there. And we thank you for your work,” she said.

Said Fianna Fáil Councillor Eimer McCormack. “Mary, I just want to say thank you for all your incredible work and your commitment that you do.

“You are a force to be reckoned with, with incredible integrity and thank you. It’s our privilege having you on the council working with us.”

On Friday, Mairead, the woman who was assaulted, said by phone that she has not received much support or assistance from the DRHE since the incident. 

Following the assault, she says that the other staff members didn’t phone Gardaí or seek medical attention. 

Later 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, she says. 

She is currently sleeping outside, she said. It was raining heavily on Friday. “Yep, I’m saturated,” she said. 

Mairead says she is aware of the apology but she hasn’t been offered any accommodation or other support since then, she said. “They know I’m sleeping on the streets.”

She hasn’t been consulted about any DRHE investigation into the incident either,  she says.  

A spokesperson for the DRHE previously said it wouldn’t answer any more questions about the incident. On Tuesday a spokesperson for the DRHE said: “Dublin City Council does not comment on individual cases for privacy reasons.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing directed queries to the DRHE: “The Department is satisfied that the DRHE is taking appropriate action in response to this incident.”

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

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