Turning public toilets into cafés | Irish Times 7th November 2018

Sir, – The former public toilets on Kevin Street will be brought back into use as a café “as soon as practical” (News, November 5th). Should Dublin City Council not see fit to invest in this much-needed facility there must be a business concern with the foresight to see that public toilet facilities are required in our capital city. The business could then hand it back to be run by Dublin City Council. I noticed recently in the UK budget that there was tax relief for public lavatories. My submission in The Irish Times last Saturday regarding 10 big ideas to make Dublin better includes a description of how Paris provides public toilets staffed by friendly municipal workers. If Paris can do it, what is stopping us from doing it? – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Capital Ideas – 10 ideas for improving Dublin’s infrastructure, economy and daily life

Why can’t Dublin, like Paris, have showers for the homeless?

Capital Ideas: No one should have to go to a charity to have a wash, writes Alice Leahy

Capital Ideas is a series of 10 proposals on ways to improve Dublin city’s infrastructure, economy, services and the daily life of its citizens.
Read all 10 ideas here. Contribute your own here.

It’s not always easy to see the connection between health and a hot shower. People come down to the Alice Leahy Trust in the basement of the Iveagh Hostel in Dublin city centre to get cleaned up for important events. Sometimes these are forks in the road that might take them one way or another: court dates, an interview with a social worker, a housing officer, a landlord.

We are not a public shower provider. Our washing facilities are part of a holistic health service for people who use the trust. They have been part of what we do for over 40 years since the day we manhandled a huge cast iron bath into our old premises in a health centre on Lord Edward Street.

Last month we provided 276 showers and clean-ups (a wash and shave at a basin). On average, each day in September, 14 people walked back up the steps cleaner, warmer and a little more ready for whatever they were facing.

We often get phonecalls from public health nurses and housing activists wondering if people they work with can come and use our shower. We have to tell them we are not a public shower facility. Every day we see the need for Dublin to provide municipal showers, not just for people living on the streets.

Public showers and toilets allow people to exist on their own terms. Their absence means Dublin treats its citizens as consumers of ever more expensive things. “Yes you can wash your hands or splash cool water on your face,” the city says. “But first there’s that coffee or burger you have to buy, or those many flights of stairs you have to climb under the gaze of security guards or cameras, if you’re lucky enough to be allowed inside in the first place.”

Glowing boxes
A decade ago we commissioned architect Niall Ó hÉalaithe of Open Office Architects to come up with ideas for public showers. His clever designs put showers into glowing boxes on unused corners, installed one with a grass roof into a spare hollow of ground beside Dr Steevens’s Hospital. He designed another to be slotted into a site on the grounds of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral “in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s concern for the poor people of Dublin”. The small unit would slot into a recess in the red brick boundary walls, disturbing neither graves nor trees. There were designs for bus shelter showers which could be coin-operated, self-cleaning and fully automated.

Alice Leahy presents her memoir “The Stars Are Our Only Warmth to President Michael D. Higgins

Alice Leahy presents her memoir “The Stars Are Our Only Warmth to President Michael D. Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin Monday 1st October 2018.

Alice’s memoir “The Stars Are Our Only Warmth” written with Catherine Cleary and published by O’Brien Press is now available in all good book shops.
All royalties to Alice Leahy Trust.

Snobbery and the housing crisis | The Irish Times 16th October 2018

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article “Snobbery is at the root of the housing crisis” raises a very important issue and not just about housing.

Sadly snobbery is alive and well in society and it is good to be reminded of that fact. Education in the broadest sense and good example is the first step to addressing it.

Attitudinal change takes time.

Objections to proposed locations of social housing are often led by elected representatives and this gives oxygen to snobbery and social exclusion.

Your columnist writes: “The way to avoid turning public housing estates into ghettoes is not to stop building them. It is to make social housing available to a much wider range of people and to allocate it in a way that ensures that the communities that inhabit it are varied”

It is plain to see the wisdom of those words. Surely those in a position of responsibility to address the housing problem should reflect on his words and lead by example. It would benefit the wider society. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Bride Road,

Dublin 8.