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Opening of new facilities at the Capuchin Day Centre, 29 Bow Street


I am delighted to be here this evening on this wonderful occasion of the opening of your new facilities at the Capuchin Day Centre.  I am very impressed by your new kitchen and improved facilities for families and children at the Centre.  And I would like to renew my thanks to you, for everything you do for people, who for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times.

The launch of these facilities is very timely.  We can all feel the winter coming in.  Halloween and then Christmas are not that far off.  As the days get colder and the nights longer some people notice hardship more than others. What they do not often notice is a place like yours – places like this Centre – which provide a lifeline, day-in day-out, all year round to the most vulnerable members of our community.

We all know that food, shelter and human contact are the most basic needs we have.  We simply could not survive without them.  That is what makes your service indispensable.  It provides a vital source of comfort and dignity to people who are homeless and in need in this area.   Despite our country’s prosperity and our booming economy, some people can still fall through the net.  Homelessness and destitution is a subject I feel very strongly about and that is why I want to support your work here. 

The Capuchins, are inspired by the work of St. Francis of Assisi.  To this day the Saint is much loved and revered for his simplicity, devotion to the poor and love of nature.  Such characteristics uphold the fabric of society.  Men like St. Francis have had a ripple effect on all those who see him as a guiding light.  In turn, the work of the Capuchins is a comforting reminder, that in this day of plenty, those who are on the margins have somewhere to go and someone to look after their most basic needs.

 I would like to say a special thank you to Brother Kevin Crowley who set up this centre in the late ‘60s.  Brother Kevin and his team have struggled to keep abreast of the social processes that bring about the whole problem of homelessness.  And we all know that it takes more than money to do this.  Your dedication and vision have helped to restore dignity to people, which is a basic human right.

I am sure that all of you involved in the running of this and other similar projects know that the Government are committed to tackling homelessness in all its forms.  We have committed a substantial amount of money to it over the last number of years.  My colleague at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government – Minister Noel Ahern has responsibility for the accommodation and related end of things.  His Department has provided over €240 million in the last five years. The Tanáiste and Minister for Health and Children Minister Mary Harney has responsibility for the health and in-house care needs.  Her Department has provided over €30 million in the same period.  This is a lot of money by any standards.   We need to be sure that it is allocated wisely to those who are most in need.  It must also go to services that provide the most holistic response to what is a very complex matter indeed.  I am pleased that these Ministers have given    €1.25 million in Government funding to the centre and that the additional funding was provided to enable this refurbishment to go ahead.

A review of the Government’s strategy on homelessness is nearing completion. I am sure that the Government in considering future homeless policy, will consider the recommendations of the review carefully.

With your work here completed, you can now put into place your plans for expanding your existing service.  Your centre is now in line with health and safety, which is obviously a very important consideration.  You have more space too for hosting clinics and for providing advice and information. 

It is good to hear that you are hoping to procure the services of a GP.  Of course our changing culture also means that new EU residents who have arrived in Ireland and who find themselves in difficulty, will have some where to come for English classes and job interviewing.  This is a very important provision to keep people from slipping into poverty and homelessness and I admire your vision and commitment in rising to this challenge.

I would like to conclude by wishing you all well in your work here.  I know Brother Kevin and his team work tirelessly all year round to keep things running smoothly.  I am sure the staff are delighted with the new facilities and most importantly, this will enable you to continue your great service to the citizens of Dublin.  Your Order have an important day tomorrow – it being the Feast of St. Francis.  I would like to wish you well in your celebrations.  Finally, his inspiring words – ‘where there is despair let me sow hope; where there is darkness: light’ are truly embodied in the spirit of the community and in this Centre.  Long may your work continue.

Thank you.