Alice Leahy receives international human rights award for her work | The Irish Times 3rd September 2018

‘An extraordinary nurse-led service that offers respite, shelter, recognition’ to homeless

Homelessness campaigner Alice Leahy has received an international human rights award for her work over four decades in assisting the homeless and rough sleepers in Dublin.

She and Swiss nurse Miriam Kasztura, who has worked for many years with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in conflict situations, are the 2018 recipients of the Human Rights and Nursing Awards.

Presented by the International Care Ethics Observatory, at the Catherine McAuley school of nursing and midwifery, University College Cork, the awards were announced during the 19th International Nursing Ethics Conference there.

Alice Leahy is a former nurse and midwife who in 1975 co-founded Trust, now the Alice Leahy Trust, which provides health and related services to homeless people. She is a former chair of the Sentence Review Group and a former Irish Human Rights Commissioner.

Citation

“Her daily toil centres around the Alice Leahy Trust. She has made it into an extraordinary nurse-led service that offers respite, shelter, recognition, advice, fresh clothes, warm showers, healthcare and friendship to the men and women who live and sleep outdoors in Ireland’s capital city,” read the citation for her award.

It said “she fights their corner. She challenges the status quo. She queries orthodoxies. She highlights hidden abuses. Where others see problems, Alice sees people. She is on their side every time.”

Her memoir, The Stars are our Only Warmth, is due for publication next month.

Humanitarian emergencies

Ms Kasztura has worked with MSF on humanitarian emergencies in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to name some. She is now a member of MSF’s board of directors.

Attendance at the Cork conference included nursing and care ethics scholars from Canada, the US, Brazil, Japan, Australia and many countries in Europe. They presented papers on nursing and care practices involving older people and dementia care, end-of-life care and acute care.

Bureaucracy dehumanises | Irish Examiner 12th July 2018

Like your columnist, Michael Clifford, I listened to ‘Noah’ on the radio show, Liveline, recently. Clifford’s (Irish Examiner, July 7) article should be widely read in the area of public service delivery and the NGO sector. The red tape and bureaucracy blocking access to services is breath-taking. This labelling of people, and the use of the language of consumerism, is widespread and clearly linked to funding.

Agencies that get grant aid and State agencies use the same language. This further alienates people and service providers can be lulled into thinking they have done something. We all need to be aware of the use of language and to understand its power and effect on vulnerable people. Many people charged with delivery of service see no other way of doing things. This is what they have been taught to ensure boxes are ticked. Regularly, I answer the phone to be informed that the caller has a ‘client’. You have a ‘person’, I say. Then follows a long silence, before attempts to point out that the ‘client’ is a ‘person’, a human being in need of a service. This issue needs to be addressed urgently to ensure that people are not denied a service.

Alice Leahy Director of Services Alice Leahy Trust Bride Road Dublin 8

The Stars Are Our Only Warmth

This is the title of a memoir written by Alice with well-known journalist Catherine Cleary which will be published by O’Brien Press on 1st October 2018.

In the 1970s Alice Leahy left nursing to work and live in a Dublin homeless shelter. This is the story of her life and life choices, from an empowering childhood, with free run of a big house estate in Tipperary to her invaluable work with some of Ireland’s most marginalised people, at The Alice Leahy Trust, in Dublin.

Alice has always been an important voice in the debate around homelessness in Ireland. An insider with an outsider’s eye, this is the memoir of an untypical life from a radical humanitarian who has always believed that anything is possible.

The Stars Are Our Only Warmth tells powerful truths about Irish life and the people who taught Alice what it is to be alive in this world.

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