Homelessness campaigner Alice Leahy has received an international human rights award for her work over four decades in assisting the homeless and rough sleepers in Dublin.
She and Swiss nurse Miriam Kasztura, who has worked for many years with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in conflict situations, are the 2018 recipients of the Human Rights and Nursing Awards.
Presented by the International Care Ethics Observatory, at the Catherine McAuley school of nursing and midwifery, University College Cork, the awards were announced during the 19th International Nursing Ethics Conference there.
Alice Leahy is a former nurse and midwife who in 1975 co-founded Trust, now the Alice Leahy Trust, which provides health and related services to homeless people. She is a former chair of the Sentence Review Group and a former Irish Human Rights Commissioner.
“Her daily toil centres around the Alice Leahy Trust. She has made it into an extraordinary nurse-led service that offers respite, shelter, recognition, advice, fresh clothes, warm showers, healthcare and friendship to the men and women who live and sleep outdoors in Ireland’s capital city,” read the citation for her award.
It said “she fights their corner. She challenges the status quo. She queries orthodoxies. She highlights hidden abuses. Where others see problems, Alice sees people. She is on their side every time.”
Her memoir, The Stars are our Only Warmth, is due for publication next month.
Ms Kasztura has worked with MSF on humanitarian emergencies in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to name some. She is now a member of MSF's board of directors.
Attendance at the Cork conference included nursing and care ethics scholars from Canada, the US, Brazil, Japan, Australia and many countries in Europe. They presented papers on nursing and care practices involving older people and dementia care, end-of-life care and acute care.