Awareness of homelessness | The Irish Times 25th May 2019

Sir, – The National Housing Conference 2040 – Delivering the Vision for Housing, held in Dublin Castle from May 20th to 21st, highlighted the reason why so many people are confused and frustrated by the lack of awareness around the issues of homelessness and the current housing deficit.

Many of the people taking part in the conference clearly came from the world of architecture and planning.

While I don’t doubt the value of their perspectives, where were the many other agencies that are required to bring about solutions?

There continues to be no general understanding of the difference between the current lack of housing and homelessness. The structural causes for the current lack of housing and the social causes underpinning homelessness, as evident on our streets, continue to be conflated, thus confusing the public debate. This allows various Government agencies off the hook, and more importantly adds to the frustration and disillusionment among the general populace that a solution to either problem will ever be found.

Huge sums of money continue to be spent on the issues around housing and homelessness while the views of those working at the coalface appear to be ignored. Government departments need to work together, embrace a holistic strategy, and listen to frontline workers if anything is to change for the better.

Until those with hands-on experience and those who can put bricks and mortar together are involved in the “debate”, the problems will remain and even grow while individual human beings continue to suffer. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Little Change in 70 years of housing | Sunday Independent April 21st 2019

Sir – Mr Murphy said, “he was satisfied that the traditional type of housing in this country would not supply the housing needs for a long time and it was possible that the erection of pre-fabricated houses might be undertaken to a limited extent in order to cope with the most pressing requirements”.

It wasn’t the current Minister for Housing, also called Murphy – Eoghan – it was Mr TJ Murphy, Minister for Local Government, speaking in Dublin Airport on his return from London in 1948 and reported in the Sunday Independent, September 5 1948, and reproduced in your supplement celebrating 70 years of the Republic (Sunday Independent, April 14).

So what has changed since that time over 70 years ago? Have we learned anything in the intervening years? From what we read about housing in today’s papers – no. I suggest the only change is the price of the paper, then two pence!

Alice Leahy
Director of Services
Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8

‘Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?’ | The Irish Times 4th April 2019

Sir, – “Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?”, Dr Muiris Houston asks (Health + Family, April 2nd).

Every so often this challenging and welcome question arises.

Many of us remember Ivan Illich’s book Medical Nemesis; it was required reading at a pre-Google time when we met in groups to analyse and debate his views, always leading to healthy and heated arguments.

Dr Séamus O’Mahony’s book Can Medicine be Cured? reminds me of our now departed friend Prof James McCormick whose book The Doctor, Father Figure or Plumber? was published in 1979.

In 1994 James wrote an appreciation in The Irish Times remembering his friend and colleague Prof Petr Skrabanek (mentioned by Muiris Houston) whose views were taken seriously by thinking physicians throughout the world.

“Future generations will honour his learning, the elegance of his writing and the cogency of his criticism”, Prof McCormick wrote.

The questions raised and challenges posed by these people at different times are so important, now more than ever before.

These are issues not just for members of the medical profession but for all working with or concerned about the health of fellow human beings.

Today medicine is so often seen as the only solution to the pain of living. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Rise in use of antidepressants | The Irish Times 9th March 2019

Sir, – Few people would be surprised to see the massive rise in the prescribing of antidepressants. The daily stress experienced by so many people is tangible.

The pain of living for some people is unbearable, and the only hope of relief for many is a prescription from a GP.

GPs can struggle to find appropriate services to refer people on to for support.

Professionals have told us they can often find themselves accused of “wasting time with people” if not adhering to time limits, generally set up by those with questionable experience in the value of human contact.

This too we now hear is creeping into the NGO and voluntary sectors, with pressure on them to meet targets to get funding.

This certainly will have consequences for many vulnerable people and those attempting to care for them.

The late Tony Gill who lived on the streets was known to us for many years and rests now in our burial plot in Glasnevin.

He once wrote: “Today I spoke to no one, And nobody spoke to me. Am I dead?”

With those simple words he certainly captured a sign of the times we are living in. – Yours, etc,



Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.