Plan to help homeless in Britain

by Democrat reporter

A UNIQUE initiative to help homeless Irish people living in cities across Britain is being spearheaded by Mayor of Kerry County Council Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa.

There are currently thousands of homeless Irish living in shocking conditions in run down shelters across Britain. Many have lived in the shelters for decades and have developed serious psychological and emotional problems as a result of their personal circumstances.

Ms Ní Fhearaíosa travelled to London last year as a guest of London Kerry Association. A chance encounter with London labour councillor Patricia Callaghan introduced the Kerry Mayor to the horror of the conditions suffered by thousands of exiled Irish. The Sinn Féin woman was so shocked by what she saw while visiting Cricklewood Homeless Concern and Arlington House in Camden Town she vowed to take on the cause of the Irish homeless abroad.

"What I saw when I was there was absolutely shocking. When I visited Arlington house I met a Donegal man whose face was swollen and purple. He had just returned from a week in hospital after an attack near the shelter.

"Attacks on what many view as drunken paddies, many who are elderly, are common. These racist attacks are carried out on mostly elderly Irish. Some have lived in these shelters for 40 or 50 years.

"I met a man from Dublin who was born out of wedlock and brought up in an orphanage. He ended up in London at just 15 and is now entering his 40th year in Arlington House. He has spent his entire life in that institution," she said.

Just days before Christmas the Ms Ní Fhearaíosa was joined by Kerry county footballer Paul Galvin and Tyrone all star Chris Lawn on a visit to the two homeless shelters. The presence of the Sam Maguire Cup, which Chris Lawn brought with him, gave residents of both homes a special treat.

Ms Ní Fhearaíosa also packed a van full of presents for the homeless men donated by business in County Kerry and hand made Christmas cards made by children in County Kerry schools. After approaching every GAA county board in Ireland to send out county jerseys just two responded Wicklow and her home county of Kerry.

"There are dozens of centres like these across Britain. If we could get each local authority across Ireland to take one under their wing we could make a difference at Christmas and times like that. It's heartbreaking to see how isolated and lonely some of these men are."

The Mayor intends to help develop a housing programme in Kerry that will help repatriate Irish men who have lived in Britain for decades.

"In the next six months I hope to push forward a project. This is an all-Ireland issue. There are people in every county who have emigrated, so every authority in the country should look at this," she said.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2006-02-14 17:13:45.
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