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.

Public toilets and the capital | The Irish Times 22nd November 2018

Sir, – At last Dublin City Council has budgeted €200,000 for two public toilets in a location yet to be decided on (Olivia Kelly, “Public toilets in pipeline for city centre after 20-year absence”, News, November 20th).

Isn’t it amazing that this decision should make headlines?

The Irish Times should take some credit for this decision following on its Weekend Review feature “Capital Ideas – 10 ideas for improving Dublin’s infrastructure, economy and daily life” (November 20th).

The Letters Page has raised the issue many times over the years. For publishing my plea for this issue to be addressed, I would like to say thank you. It’s been a long wait. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

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.