James McClean pays for homeless people to stay in Maldron Hotel - praise for Stoke and Republic of Ireland player
Republic of Ireland player James McClean has paid for six people sleeping rough in his home city of Londonderry to sleep in a four-star hotel.
The Creggan-born star, who also plays for Stoke City, put the six Romanian natives, who had been sleeping in and around the city centre for a number of weeks, up for a number of nights in the Maldron Hotel within the city's historic walls.
James' sister Mary-Jane paid tribute to the kindness shown by her brother and his wife Erin on her Facebook page.
"My brother has a huge heart," she wrote. "We were just away collecting them now and taking them to the hotel. We already left a man to the hotel who lays at Foyleside Shopping Centre... You are a credit, James and Erin."
Bridget Donegan, from the Northwest Equality Crisis Campaign, which takes food, dry clothes and warm blankets to the homeless on the streets of the city, thanked the couple for the gesture, which will make a "huge difference" to those involved.
"If everyone could take a step back and strip away the stigma and see the conditions these men live in - on quilts and sleeping bags that weigh a ton due to rain water in the cold. One man on Thursday night was so cold and wet, he wrote us a note telling us all he wanted was to go home," she said.
"We spoke to two of them last night through our translator and they are so thankful."
A spokesperson for the Maldron Hotel said that it had no comment to make on the matter.
McClean has become well known for his acts of kindness in recent years, including last year donating £3,000 to help pay for 17-month-old Caleb Williamson, who was battling an aggressive form of eye cancer, to have specialist treatment in Switzerland.
He also made a considerable donation to the family of a three-year-old Derry toddler in desperate need of a heart transplant, as well as helping pay some of the funeral costs for Ronan McGavigan, aged two, who had been knocked down and killed near the Brandywell stadium.
McClean hit the headlines last month when he chose not to wear a poppy on his Stoke City kit while playing against Middlesbrough on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday.
He called a section of opposition supporters "uneducated cavemen" after they hurled abuse at him for his stance during a match in Stoke's stadium.
As McClean made his way to the players' tunnel, Middlesbrough supporters booed and unleashed a stream of insults, as stewards pushed a number of fans back from the perimeter fence.
Later that night McClean, who was also booed by some home fans, responded by quoting IRA man and MP Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike in 1981.
"They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn't want to be broken," McClean wrote, quoting Sands.