Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis made a surprise appearance at the American Ireland Fund annual dinner in New York last night to help raise funds to build a hospice in his home county of Co Wicklow.
Mr Day-Lewis said the people of Wicklow had raised €3 million to start building a hospice later this year but that further funding to complete the project was not guaranteed because “there is not a lot of money to spare in Ireland right now.
“We had hoped that the Government health organisation would come in when we reached the target figure of €3 million and now with the financial situation there is no guarantee that that is going to happen,” he said.
The actor spoke emotionally about the importance of the role of hospice care in the lead-up to the death of his mother in England and how she chose to spend her last days living in a hospice.
“It does take very unusual people to do that work but they know how to allow each individual to have their dignity at that time,” he told more than 1,000 guests at the event in a Manhattan hotel.
Mr Day-Lewis referred to the poor treatment his mother had received at a hospital prior to her move to a “cottage hospital” or hospice near her home.
A doctor at a hospital had “seen fit” to tell his mother that she had an inoperable brain tumour and “left her there to contemplate the end of her life,” he said.
He had found his mother in “a state of mortal terror” in a geriatric wing of a hospital, which had been condemned with people screaming and “in all kinds of states of distress.”
In contrast, the nursing staff at the hospice two miles from his mother’s home showed her and other members of the family “unimaginable care and kindness and skill” guiding them through to the end of her life.
Evanne Cahill, chairperson for fundraising for the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, said the aim was to raise money to build a hospice where people in Wicklow could live out their final days in "dignity, comfort and, most importantly, in their home county," she said.
The European premiere of Lincoln, for which Mr Day-Lews won an Oscar this year, in Dublin raised more than $350,000 (€266,000), but a further $3.75 million was required to build the hospice, she said.
“While it (Wicklow) covers 800 square miles, you cannot be born or die in County Wicklow because we have no general hospital and no hospice for end of life care,” said Ms Cahill.
The American Ireland Fund also honoured the organisation’s outgoing chairman Loretta Brennan Glucksman and former president of jeweller Tiffany & Company James Quinn at the philanthropic organisation’s 38th annual dinner last night.
Ms Brennan Glucksman served more than 20 years as chairman and was succeeded by hotelier John Fitzpatrick. She said that since she and her late husband Lewis Glucksman became involved in the organisation it had raised almost $400 million in donations.
The fund recently donated $60,000 to the One Fund set up to benefit the victims of last month’s bombings of the Boston Marathon.