By his own admission, actor Brendan Gleeson is sick of listening to his own voice. The last few months have been an endless whirr of interviews and red carpet appearances during the awards season.
Although he did not win an Oscar for his role in The Banshees of Inisherin, a nomination in the best supporting actor category is a win in itself. Gleeson believes a period of silence from him would be welcome for the time being but he is making an exception to talk about his support for St Francis Hospice in Raheny. His mother Pat, who died in 2007, and his father Francis who followed her three years later, both spent their last days in the hospice.
St Francis Hospice is now embarking on its most ambitious expansion to date. It intends to build a new hospice in-patient unit. This will involve moving all its current patients, 19 when full, to a new facility adjacent to the existing one. It will have capacity for 24 patients, but crucially, all patients will have their own room. There are only seven single rooms in the existing facility.
The total cost will be almost €30 million, of which €10 million will come from fundraising, another €10 million from a bank loan and €9.5 million from the HSE.
The development will include dedicated family areas as well as the required clinical support facilities. The new build will link to the existing St Francis Hospice building by a pedestrian bridge, there will also be a new garden.
The extension is ambitious and so is the timetable. It is hoped, subject to planning permission, that work will begin in the middle of next year and be finished in 2026.
Gleeson has said he is happy to be an ambassador for the Living Today, Building for Tomorrow campaign as it begins its arduous fundraising targets, but the credit belongs to those who have made the hospice what it is today.
“I feel odd being the face of something when other people are doing the actual work. At the same time I do support them. I’m unashamedly supporting them,” Gleeson said.
“The thing that you notice about all the people who are involved here, almost all of them have some personal involvement. It has been a huge benefit in my life.
“This concept of your parents death being a good death is monumental. As soon as you ask the question, people are delighted to put their shoulders to the wheel.”
Gleeson witnessed his mother, who spent her life helping others and cherished her independence, reluctantly enter the hospice but submit to “a beautiful surrender of control” while there. His father “was a stoic person who found it easier to accept”.
Though death is inevitable, there are good deaths and there are bad deaths, Gleeson believes. A hospice gives you the “choice to live all the way to death or to die all the way to death”, he said.
Gleeson has witnessed St Francis Hospice staff put “kindness as a continuum, a top of the tree aspiration and an everyday vehicle for what they do. The reason I lend my support to them is because I believe the care and dignity that is afforded to patients is something that should be available to everyone in our community. St Francis Hospice must make sure they expand to help everyone who needs them.”
St Francis Hospice social work coordinator Niamh Finucane said the existing facility had three four-bed rooms and seven single rooms. It is not a satisfactory arrangement, she acknowledged. A move to single rooms in the hospice’s sister facility in Blanchardstown has been a success.
“It will increase our capacity by five, but ultimately we are building 24 new rooms,” Ms Finucane explained.
As the first part of its fundraising drive, St Francis Hospice is appealing through its building partner, MKN Property Group, to companies involved in the construction industry for €3.5 million worth of funding.
Hospice management is hoping that construction companies will become sponsors as part of a tier that suits them best.