GAA players organise sleep-outs in support of homeless
‘We can no longer accept this level of inequality’ says Wexford star Diarmuid Lyng
Homeless man sleeping on Kildare Street, Dublin. Intercounty players are organising sleep-outs on December 16th to draw attention to homelessness. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Upwards of 150 GAA intercounty players are to sleep out in towns and cities across Ireland on Saturday December 16th to draw attention to the homelessness crisis.
It is being organised by “Gaelic Voices for Change”, a new player-led social movement made up of volunteers from the four provinces who have been meeting weekly for the past two months.
Members include current and former Dublin footballers Eamonn Fennell, Michael Darragh MacAuley and Sinéad Finnegan, Tipperary hurlers Brendan Maher and Patrick “Bonner” Maher, Waterford hurler Noel Connors, Cork footballer Valerie Mulcahy, former Wexford hurling captain Diarmuid Lyng, Tyrone footballer Gemma Begley, Cavan footballer Alan O’Mara, and Roscommon footballers Pat Nolan and Alan Moore.
There were people dying on the streets “when there are the means, but not the desire, to house them”, said Lyng. This was “a reflection on all of us, not just our politicians. This is being branded and rebranded as acceptable and even normal by those in charge. We no longer can accept this level of inequality and injustice,” he said.
Mulcahy believed it was “important to use our voices as players and help those that are vulnerable in our society, not turn our back on them” while Fennell said that “it isn’t just about people not having a roof over your head. It’s about dealing with mental health issues, physical health and education.”
Supported by the Gaelic Players Association and the Women’s Gaelic Players Association, the players feel strongly that as the GAA is based on community values they want to use their voice to support the most vulnerable in society. They have identified the housing and homelessness crisis as a priority but are also keen to look at areas such as mental health, gambling, and racism.
They say they are alarmed at Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reports that Ireland now has the highest child homelessness rate in Europe and that, according to Focus Ireland, there has been a 24 per cent increase in homelessness over the past year.
New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy will join his squad for the sleep-out in Dublin. It is understood squads in other locations, including London, are also looking at local events in their county towns. Those wishing to register can do so online at www.gaelicvoicesforchange.com before next Monday.
The players are also appealing for help with tea and coffee, food, sleeping bags, music and entertainment, and fundraising in each of the sleep-out locations. People can support by donating online.
All funds raised will go to homeless charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin.