Sir, – Sadness and hope came to mind on reading the thought-provoking article “Goodbye Grangegorman”, by Carl O’Brien and seeing the powerful, evocative photographs by Bryan O’Brien (Weekend Review, February 23rd).
I remembered the few people gathered in the small chapel in St Brendan’s for Mass to say farewell to John, who spent a lot of his life there before ending it in Dún Laoghaire on a cold, bleak Saturday morning, tired of living. I also recalled the emergency shelter for homeless people that was set up in the grounds of St Brendan’s by then taoiseach Albert Reynolds and run by members of the Defence Forces for a time, and subsequently by the Salvation Army. Some of those using that service spent their days lost in a haze of alcohol and other drugs in the squalor of the nearby derelict building, a wing of the hospital. Some sadly died there alone.
This was all in the fairly recent past and many working on the frontline in the area of homelessness today can testify to the existing need for emergency beds.
It was possible then to accompany homeless people in need of medical attention to St Brendan’s without advance e-mails or appointments.
Those people, no matter where they came from, not fitting in to any “catchment area” were seen, and frequently by friendly, caring and concerned nursing and medical staff.
The large outdated institutions have been replaced in many instances by hostels, which are cheaper to run. Some of these hostels are placed in struggling communities at a time when statistics, bricks and mortar, finance and outcomes are top of the agenda – so too outsourcing and privatisation.
It is crucial that the debate, particularly around psychiatric care, continues to challenge us. This article plays an important role in ensuring this happens.
Asylum – shelter and protection from danger. It is a definition we should not lose sight of at a time when so many people are in urgent need of it.
Community care in many instances is an illusion.
History will repeat itself, if in a different guise; and we will be judged to be no better than those we blame for what happened in the past. We must all ensure that this does not happen in our name in our time. – Yours, etc,