Sir, – Reading Ian Elliott’s letter “Hands up to help the homeless” (November 20th) I was reminded of my last visit to the Royal City of Dublin Hospital with Irish Times journalist Catherine Cleary when we were writing my memoir, The Stars Are Our Only Warmth, published by O’Brien Press last year.

I spent many years there as a student nurse and nursing sister. The visit was deeply depressing and a salutary lesson in the dangers of revisiting old haunts. Draughts whisked through the corridors from cracked sash windows. Old wards housed piles of discarded equipment and debris. Wings were cleared out but for my memories of patients, nurses, doctors and domestic staff past. In one ward a huge old zinc saucepan stood collecting drips from a breaking ceiling. It was clear that Baggot Street hospital is an absolute time piece waiting for a consortium to spend millions to transform it into a luxurious place to work or leisure.

The sale of the site of course is hampered presumably by two things – refurbishing an old building is not where building is at in the city at the moment (developers want to crane in new builds on demolished or facaded sites), and the stipulation that a healthcare facility be maintained in the area by the developer. It’s a monument to the greed of the moment we are in.

On leaving after my visit I was speechless and then talking to myself, wondering who would I pick from my large number of contacts who have money to buy this great building and work with a group of committed people to run a home for respite care for people who are homeless or older people needing secure sheltered accommodation.

After a period of reflection near Patrick Kavanagh’s monument I thought about the red tape, bureaucracy, finding suitable caring staff, etc, so I put it on the back burner. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.