Veterans of the Irish Defence Forces are lying in Tricolour sleeping bags in locations across the capital today to raise awareness of the problem of homelessness among former soldiers.

The event has been organised by the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, or ONE, which has helped hundreds of homeless Defence Forces veterans.

Dubbed 'Sleeping Flags', the event represents homeless veterans who died on Dublin's streets in the past.

ONE said it also highlights the reality facing current and future veterans if the charity cannot keep its doors open.

Veterans are also calling for more funding to be made available to former soldiers for counselling services.

There is currently no psychiatrist assigned to work in the Defence Forces, but cases are referred to local external private psychiatrists for treatment.

It said those in need of urgent psychiatric assessment are referred to emergency departments.

The Defence Forces said it advertised the post of military psychiatrist last year, but there were no applications for the job.

It said the problem was not unique to the Defence Forces and there was a nationwide shortage of trained psychiatrists. 

It added: "Efforts to secure a locum psychiatrist have also been unsuccessful to date.

"In an effort to address this approval has been given to conduct a competition for a contracted civilian consultant psychiatrist at pay rates equivalent to those available in the HSE."

The charity provides more than 16,000 bed nights each year at hostels in Dublin, Letterkenny and Athlone, with 95% of service users moving on to permanent housing.

The group said it had helped veterans who had served in The Congo, Lebanon, Syria and the Mediterranean.

Chief executive Ollie O’Connor said: "Our first homeless hostel opened in direct response to a number of veterans dying on the streets of Dublin.

"Since then, we’ve helped over 900 homeless veterans from all over Ireland who could have faced the same situation.

"These Sleeping Flags are bags we never wanted to make, but if we can’t get enough funding, our veterans will end up back on the streets."