Incoming Defence Forces chief of staff appeals for support for homeless veterans

Pandemic led to ‘vast reduction’ in fundraising for charity

Major Gen Seán Clancy was speaking at the launch of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann’s Fuschia appeal to raise money for veterans in need of assistance. Photograph: iStock

Major Gen Seán Clancy was speaking at the launch of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann’s Fuschia appeal to raise money for veterans in need of assistance. Photograph: iStock

 

The incoming chief of staff of the Defence Forces has urged support for military veterans suffering from homelessness, addiction and mental health issues ahead of a major fundraising drive.

Major Gen Seán Clancy, who is due to take up the top role in the Defence Forces at the end of September, was speaking at the launch of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann’s (ONE) Fuschia appeal to raise money for veterans in need of assistance.

The veteran support charity was forced to suspend its annual appeal last year due to Covid-19. The pandemic also saw the closure of in-person veteran support services around the country but these are now reopening.

“The support provided by ONE has never been more important or more needed in these difficult times and therefore I encourage all members to reach out and support its work,” Maj Gen Clancy said.

The pandemic led to a “vast reduction” in fundraising for veteran’s causes, he said. “As this country opens up it is important that we pick up where we left off and it is important that we all help once again.”

Maj Gen Clancy said that as chief of staff designate, the issue of veterans affairs and the work of ONE “are very close to my thoughts”.

Defence Forces personnel undergo unique stresses and hardships during their service, said ONE chief executive Ollie O’Connor.

“These include instability, dangers to physical and mental health, separation from family and friends, stress, impact on relationships and forsaking individual and collective rights.”

The ramifications of these stresses last throughout the lives of some veterans, he said.

“Veterans don’t choose to be homeless,” Mr O’Connor said. “They were proud and honoured to serve our country. Some of those people now need our help.”

He appealed for the public to help ONE make Ireland “one of the best places to be a veteran”.

Secretary general of the Department of Defence Jacqui McCrum noted it was the 70th anniversary of ONE, which was formed in 1951 following the mass demobilisation of the Defence Forces after the Emergency.

“Since then it has gone from strength to strength,” Ms McCrum said, adding that its work providing accommodation to homeless veterans is of “immense value”.

“I am aware that transition from military to civilian life can be very challenging for some. ONE’s information and advocacy service for former members of the Defence Forces serves to assist with this transition.”

She said ONE’s work “makes a very real difference to the lives of former members of the Defence Forces and does not go unnoticed”.

Ms McCrum said Minister for Defence Simon Coveney regretted that he could not attend the launch due to other commitments. “Please be assured he remains committed to the ongoing efforts of ONE to support your members.”

The fundraising appeal begins on September 25th and will see members and volunteers selling the fuschia flower at locations around the country. Funds will also be raised through coffee mornings in military bases and sponsored activities.

ONE has 37 branches around Ireland and 15 support centres. It provides 20,000 beds annually to veterans and says it has kept 1,000 veterans off the street. Ninety per cent of homeless veterans it assists go on to permanent housing.