Monthly Archives: March 2011

Speaking Up and Speaking Out!

This is the first in a series of posts about organizations and groups in Ireland actively involved in helping to change the discourse around being older in Ireland. 

GET VOCAL AND BE HEARD

The GET VOCAL initiative is a programme spearheaded by Age & Opportunity and funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. The aim is to encourage older people to speak for themselves in promoting their own concerns and causes. Who knows best about being older than older people themselves?!

Age & Opportunity do this by working with national and local organizations dedicated to social change in relation to the older generation. Networks and groups plan projects that are in turn supported by Age & Opportunity. Sometimes they can even give a small grant to help with the projects.

The stated main goal is to promote networks of older people who can have a say in issues of concern to them, such as transport, health  services, rights for older people, and living in isolation. They are involved in Kerry, Cavan, Leitrim, Wexford, Tolka, Finglas, Wicklow and Meath. They also have a project with members of the Simon community, highlighting the needs of older homeless people around declining health, dying and death. Older members of  The Gay & Lesbian Community also have particular needs and issues with their lives as they age and there is an initiative involving them.

It is important that society as a whole understands the issues that are of concern to older people and hopefully, dear readers, you will one day be older too!

You can read about the Get Vocal Projects here.

Previous post on The Atlantic Philanthropies here.

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Loneliness, Older Generation, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice, Social Networking, Social Policy

Celebrating Irishness: Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney

Charles Feeney was born to a working class family in New Jersey, USA in the early 1930’s. His father’s mother hailed from near Kinawley, in Co Fermanagh, from where she emigrated to the USA.

Charles 'Chuck ' Feeney

In the 1960’s he co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, which sold luxury goods ‘duty free’ in Honolulu and Hong Kong and which eventually became hugely successful, making the partners very wealthy. DFS was to become one of the largest liquor retailers in the world and in 1997, Feeney sold his interest to Louis Vuitton  Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

In 1988, the Forbes Rich List ranked Feeney in the top 20 richest people, with estimated wealth of €1.3billion.  But, in reality his wealth was much less as he had in 1982 transferred much of it – reportedly between $500 million and $800 million –  to a charitable foundation, The Atlantic Foundation. Based in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements in the USA and to give Charles Feeney the anonymity he craved, The Atlantic Foundation was the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  A very private and modest man, the story of Charles (Chuck) Feeney was not well known until the 1990s when in an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he was the benefactor of one of the top 5 philanthropic foundations in the world.

In 1987, the Enniskillen Bombing had a profound impact on Feeney.  His grandmother having emigrated from the same county, meant he had family roots here and he became determined to try to effect change  in Northern Ireland.  He  joined with other Irish Americans liaising between the White House and various parties in Northern Ireland to try to broker a peace agreement.  He had as a particular and personal  agenda the aim of encouraging the Republicans to join in mainstream politics and he personally funded the Sinn Fein Office in Washington D.C.  for some years.  (Atlantic Philanthropies is precluded from funding political parties.)

It was not until 2007 when Conor O’ Cleary, a  well respected correspondent of The Irish Times, published a book : The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly  Made and Gave Away a Fortune, that the truth about Feeney became known.  (Feeney had decided to cooperate with the author to promote ‘Giving While Living’ and inspire wealthy people to donate their wealth during their lifetime). Also in 1997  RTE, the Irish television service,  aired a TV documentary, ‘The Secret Billionaire’  looking at the life of this  extraordinary man.

Universities in Ireland, notably University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Trinity College, Dublin have benefited from donations from the fund of over $1billion.  Many philanthropists will endow projects in return for recognition, but this has never been the case with Chuck Feeney who has shunned public recognition such as honorary degrees, and having buildings named in his honour.  One of my favourite stories that exemplifies what Chuck Feeney  is all about, relates to  Queens University, in Belfast, who in 2007 were building a new library, costing  £44 million. It was to have been called the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Library.  Tony O’Reilly had contributed £4 million in return for ‘naming rights’. Chuck Feeney on the other hand had anonymously provided £10 million  and it was his wish that this should not be made public. (Tony O’Reilly later withdrew his wish to have the library named after him in 1999!)

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney does not own on a house, he does not own a car and his $15 plastic watch is now famous!  He lives modestly, having said that a man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  He has never strayed far from the sense of community he was born into –  one of helping his neighbour, and he has the ability to empathize with people less fortunate than himself who lead difficult lives and who may not have enough to eat.  And so this week, the week of St Patrick’s Day, will see Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, extraordinary Irish American,  inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt but that his benevolence has had a huge impact on life and society in Ireland, and continues to do so through funding for social issues from The Atlantic Philanthropies, including fighting ageism, of particular interest to this blogger.

The website of The  Atlantic Philanthropies can be viewed here.

For more on the Irish American Hall of Fame click here.

To see more about Conor O’Cleary’s book on Charles Feeney, click here.

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Filed under Ageism, Ancestry, Family History, Ireland, Irish_American, Living in Ireland, Seniors, Social Change, Social Policy

Atlantic Philanthropies – Changing lives of all ages

This post takes a broader look at the work of The Atlantic Philantrophies. As mentioned in an earlier post, Fighting Ageism in Ireland, The Atlantic Philanthropies organization aims to change the lives of many people in particular geographic areas who are disadvantaged in some way –  whether by age, sexual orientation, social disadvantage, gender, race, nationality, religion or political affiliation. Their world-wide geographic base includes the United States of America, Vietnam, Australia, Bermuda, South Africa and all of the island of Ireland. In 2010 funding of their projects in these areas was a staggering $5.4 billion.

The Atlantic Philanthropies offer support for change at various levels. Their key social issues are health, ageism, gay and lesbian rights, children, older adults, coloured people, the disabled. The projects they support include the population health programme in South Africa; Children and Youth programme in the USA; gay and lesbian equality in Ireland; reconciliation and human rights in Northern Ireland; addressing class inequalities in Bermuda; assisting health research in Australia and improving access to health care in Vietnam. Their work is characterized by supporting local organizations, governments, government agencies and local advocacy campaigns that will lead to policy changes and the redressing of social inequalities.

Such wide-ranging and diverse programmes are rooted in the  underlying belief that dignity, respect and fairness are basic rights of every person.

Silver citizens in Ireland have a vested interest in all the groups and programmes supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies. We have health access issues ourselves; some of us may be gay or lesbian; we are parents and grandparents of children and would wish that all children are cherished equally; we may have friends and relatives who do not enjoy full citizenship by virtue of the place  or social class in which they were born, or because of their religion.

In my next post I will take a closer look at the founder of the amazing philanthropic resource that is The Atlantic Philanthropies, Charles Feeney.

For more detailed information on The Atlantic Philanthropies and their programmes, click here.

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Filed under Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Social Change, Social Justice, Social Policy

Fighting Ageism in Ireland

This is the first in a short series of posts recognizing the contribution of  The Atlantic Philanthropies to the improvement of lives of older people in Ireland.

Charles ( Chuck) Feeney is an Irish American businessman who in 1982 set up  the Atlantic Philanthropies.  This is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world.  It supports various social justice causes across the globe, including here in Ireland, where the beneficiaries range from the child focussed  Barnardos to the Older & Bolder umbrella organization for social justice for seniors. In 2009 The Atlantic Philanthropies spent US$ 46.1 million in the Republic of Ireland.

The name Chuck Feeney may be familiar to Irish readers as he famously endows third level educational institutions in Ireland, most notably the University of Limerick with many millions of dollars.  Less well know is the  fact that The Atlantic Philanthropies is actively engaged in fighting ageism and has as core beliefs that older people have a right to a good quality of life, health and economic security.  It funds ageing programmes in the United States of America as well in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that challenge the limitations on full social participation by older people.

The Ageing Programme concentrates on matters of concern to older adults, such as poverty, gender, beliefs, health issues, geographic isolation.  It aims to strengthen the voice of older people and the organizations that represent them so that they may have a positive impact on social policy.

Older & Bolder  has a vision of Ireland that affirms the rights of all older people to live and die in dignity and with the respect of the community at large.  The Atlantic Philanthropies continues through its generous donations to influence this agenda in Ireland.

Read more about The Atlantic Philanthropies on Wikipedia here.

Read more about The Atlantic Philanthropies on their own site here.

Older & Bolder website can be accessed here.

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Irish_American, Loneliness, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice, Social Policy, Working Poor

International Women’s Day -100 Years

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in March 1911.  It had its origins in America a few years earlier where women had come together to protest against poor working conditions, resulting in a National Women’s Day being declared by the Socialist Party of America.  Subsequently at an International Conference for Working Women in  Copenhagen, attended by delegates from 17 countries, and including  the first 3 women elected to the Finnish Parliament, a proposal to have a special day each year to focus on women’s issues was met with unanimous approval.

Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark observed the first International Women’s Day in March 1911.  More than a million men and women attended rallies in support of women’s right to work, right to vote, right to hold public office.  In 1913, Russian women observed International Women’s Day campaigning for peace and in 1914, other European countries joined in.

In 1917, amid great unrest in Russia caused by millions of casualties, terrible food shortages, and with many women removed from farms to work in the factories,  International Women’s Day prompted 90,00 workers to strike and the army at Petrograd to revolt.  Attempts to end the unrest were not successful  and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated some days later. The new provisional government granted universal suffrage with equality for women.

Down the decades, the movement has continued to grow and has become a worldwide event in countries all over the world. In 25 countries it is an official holiday while in China Madagascar and Nepal it is  an official holiday for women only.  In many countries from Bangladesh to Guinea,  from Vietnam to Iceland, from Afghanistan to Zambia, events will take place on March 8th to mark  International Women’s Day. The top 5 countries for International Women’s day activity to mark the centenary on March 8th  are the  UK, Canada, Australia, the United States and Ireland.

International Women’s Day has evolved into a global day of celebration of the achievements of women, socially, politically, and economically. Women’s rights campaigners highlight inequalities and raise money for  Charity. Celebrities the world over  associate themselves with the day – Annie Lennox will lead a march in London; people will march on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. demanding better conditions for marginalized women all over the world, Ban Ki-moon will issue a special address  from the United Nations.

Cork will celebrate historic women astronomers, Dublin will have an exhibition about  Hannah Sheehy Skeffington; Limerick hosts a photographic exhibition on the lives of women helped by Concern, Kilkenny has a business women’s lunch for charity. You can attend a tea party in Mallow, or attend a musical evening hosted by Amnesty International in PortLaoise;  you can have pancakes in Sligo or experience  Native American Ceremony in Gorey! There are dozens of other events.   If you would like to see what is in your country, your area, click here. Not all events are taking place on Tuesday the 8th, so you may manage to attend more than one! Or why not have one yourself!

Visit the website of  International Women’s Day

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Filed under Ireland, Social Change, Suffrage