Gambling ads causing ‘so much damage to families’ – Michael D Higgins

President says his ‘heart broke’ at seeing gambling ads during sports programmes

President Michael D Higgins has hit out at "dangerous" gambling advertisements which he said were causing "so much damage to families and... individuals".

At his first major engagement outside Áras An Uachtaráin since March 2020, he said his heart had been “broken” regularly during the pandemic as he saw advertisement after advertisement for gambling apps during sports programmes accompanied by just “totally minimal, tokenistic invitations to be responsible”. It was “not good enough”, he said.

The President and his wife, Sabina Higgins, were visiting Carraig Eden, a transitional housing centre for men in Greystones, Co Wicklow, which has just undergone a substantial refurbishment and retro-fit.

The couple spoke to residents and staff and planted a cherry-blossom sapling. The 34-unit centre is operated by Tiglin, which also offers residential rehabilitation services for men in Ashford and women in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow.


During their two-hour visit the President and Mrs Higgins heard how gambling addiction had impacted some of the residents. He said: “I am a lifetime supporter of sport and during Covid my heart broke at regular times to think that sport was being saturated with gambling advertisements which are so dangerous and have done so much damage to families and so much damage to individuals.


“My hope is that as a society we take responsibility for making the atmosphere in which people live their lives, do their work, enjoy their sport, as free as possible from unnecessary pressure that is capable of causing so much destruction.

“I say this as somebody who was a former minister for broadcasting myself, it is a concern of mine. I would think very often this summer, watching a piece of sport I switched off because yet again there was going to be another break with yet another advertisement and totally minimal, tokenistic invitations to be responsible... It’s not good enough.”

There was “huge positivity” in Carraig Eden and the hope it inspired in so many to overcome traumas and addictions.

“Would that every local authority in the country had a place like this,” said Mr Higgins. “Now we are stirring out from the Áras again, and I am so pleased to get near the sea again, listening to these stories, of people who have had their participation in life, for one reason or another, disrupted and the manner in which they have been able not just to get out of the immediate space in which they found themselves but actually to discover a new space and go on and be full of hope and joy.”


Carraig Eden was almost forced to close in 2017, making 30 vulnerable men homeless, when the then owners, a Christian church body, wanted to sell the seafront property to a housing developer. Following an approach by Tiglin chairman Aubrey McCarthy, Wicklow County Council bought the large Victorian house and leases it now to the charity.

Residents who have completed rehabilitation pay €140 a week for a private ensuite room, with bills, meals and on-site supports included. They may stay here for several months or longer as they transition into housing and work or education.

Mr Higgins said Carraig Eden was “something that Wicklow can be proud of. You have this magnificent example available for all of the people who want to use it. I hope when county managers [and] councillors meet, that they take this example and say, ‘Could we not be doing something in our own way, something like this?’”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times