President’s comments reassuring | The Irish Times, May 23rd, 2020

Sir, – President Michael D Higgins made a number of comments in an Italian publication (“Austerity ‘must not’ return, Higgins tells communist paper”, News, May 22nd).

The one that caught my eye was his “huge disappointment for him to see discrimination on the basis of age in the responses to the corona crises by so many countries”. He has given support to the many people over 70 who feel patronised, deeply insulted and discriminated against by the use of the term “cocooner” to describe them. Maybe this term was used in good faith to soften the discrimination. Why his comments should have raised “the eyebrows of senior officials and ministers” is odd because our President is deeply involved in world affairs and has his finger on the pulse of Irish life. He gives inspiration and encouragement to people of all ages, particularly to older people by his example.

Long may he continue to do so, because we all need reassurance at this challenging time. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.


Labelling older people | The Irish Times, April 16th, 2020

Sir, – Kathy Sheridan has raised very important issues about the lives of people over 70 (“Let the over-70s have a walk”, Opinion & Analysis, April 15th).

Credit is due to so many people of all ages and all walks of life at this time in our challenged world. However, it is important for all of us to keep a watchful eye to the future. How easy it will be or could become to put people over 70 on the “scrapheap”. Convenient labels do crop up with each crisis. “Bed-blocker” in the recent past is an example.

Women and men over 70 contribute to the life of this country in so many ways, like those who have gone before them. Their continuing commitment, expertise and wisdom should not be ignored, rather used to inspire confidence in the younger generation. The young people in our country need lots of encouragement and confidence to know that all will be well. When the Covid-19 crisis ends, and it will, we must ensure that people over 70 are not seen as victims but people entitled to be treated with equal respect and dignity.

Incidentally, people over 70 are often reminded that they are the new 50 when it is convenient. At this time, being allowed to walk for one hour would go some way to ensure that people are not made to feel like prisoners in their own home.

Labels do have a habit of sticking! – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.


Homeless campaigner Alice Leahy named humanitarian of the year | The Irish Times 26th November 2018

Irish Red Cross awards recognise pupils’ campaign to revoke classmate’s deportation

Homeless campaigner Alice Leahy has been named as humanitarian of the year at an Irish Red Cross awards ceremony.

Ms Leahy was recognised for her lifetime of dedication to helping society’s most disadvantaged people, said Pat Carey, Irish Red Cross chairman.

“She has developed an unrivalled understanding of the needs of those on the margins of society and during every day of her working life she has implemented practical measures to help combat social exclusion,” Mr Carey added.

Ms Leahy, director and co-founder of the Alice Leahy Trust – a support centre for homeless people – has been working to secure better services for vulnerable people since the mid-1970s.

Students at Tullamore College who campaigned to revoke the deportation order of their friend Nonso Moujeke were also recognised at the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards.

The Offaly teenager was facing deportation to Nigeria earlier this year despite having lived in Ireland since he was two years old.

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.