Home at last: man (62) gets council property after 40 years living in Cork slaughterhouse

John O’Donnell thanks city hall and local campaigner Paddy O’Brien for their help

A 62-year-old man who has lived in a derelict slaughterhouse for four decades has received the keys to a council property in Cork.

John O’Donnell, who cannot read or write and has never had a home, previously said while he did not want to impose on anyone he was worried that he would end up “six feet under” because of the poor conditions he was living in.

He worked in the slaughterhouse by day as a younger man and slept in the canteen at night. When it later closed down, he remained in the derelict site with his dog.

Mr O’Donnell had grown up in a State institution in Cork. He left as a young teenager and went to work in the slaughterhouse on the northside of the city.


Paddy O’Brien, an advocate for the elderly in Cork, took on his case and approached Cork City Council about finding housing for Mr O’Donnell. The derelict site was falling in to complete disrepair and its roof was leaking.

A clearly overwhelmed Mr O’Donnell received a warm welcome from locals when he turned the key on his terraced home in Madden’s Buildings in Blackpool, Cork, on Wednesday.

It is hoped he will move in to the property in time for his 63rd birthday in August.


Mr O’Donnell said that he was very grateful for all that had been done for him by the local authority and Mr O’Brien. He also thanked Virgin Media TV and Red FM for highlighting his story.

However, he admitted it would take him time to get used to his new surroundings. “I have never had a fireplace so I am not sure about cleaning it out.

“I was 40 years (in the old place). It was tough but I used to walk around in the fields. I wasn’t lonely to be honest. I was used to it. But it was cold. City hall (the local authority) were very good to me. And I also want to thank Paddy O’Brien.

“I hope I can bring my dog. It is a brilliant house. A grand, grand little place.”

Mr O’Donnell had previously told Virgin Media broadcaster Paul Byrne that he “didn’t want to be a bother” and would like a house “if it wasn’t too much trouble”.

He said that his old home was “horrendous and shocking”. He suffers from asthma and was finding it increasingly hard to breathe in the derelict property.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien said Mr O’Donnell had endured the worst living living arrangements he had ever seen.

“I wonder how many more Johns are there. Not just in Cork but in the entire country. It was an appalling situation that a man was living out there for so long without anybody doing anything about it.

“I got a word from a neighbour, who is a friend of his, last January. The housing department in city hall were very good.”

Local businesses, such as Kelly’s Carpets, have vowed to row in over the next few weeks to provide flooring for the new property.