Category Archives: Social Policy

Real Ireland:There’s no place like home.

I am vexed. It is not fitting to be vexed at the height of an Irish summer,with our lovely long evenings and supposedly balmy weather.Nor is it fitting to be vexed when,in the evening of my life and on the cusp of changed circumstances, I deconstruct my home of 34 years and sort treasured possessions into ‘irreplaceable’,’would like to keep’ or ‘dispensable’, in joyful preparation for a whole new life,new adventures and new possibilities in a new home.OK – perhaps the disappointing summer weather has contributed to my crankiness,but the more I think about this, the more I realize that not only am I vexed and cranky, but I am also as MAD AS HELL,which may not be good for my blood pressure and general health.

imageLast week in green warm comfortable Ireland, it was revealed that a family of five – a mother and a father who has a job and is working, both in their 30s, together with their three children aged 5 years, 3  years and 2 years in and around the ages of my own three grandchildren were issued with sleeping bags by Focus Ireland, a charity for the homeless in Ireland. They had already spent a couple of nights in the park, having been evicted as their house was repossessed, before calling on the services for the homeless. I could not believe my ears when I heard this on radio – a charity for the homeless could do no more for this family than issue them with sleeping bags so that they could sleep on benches in a public park in the open air?? What,in the name of God has happened with this supposedly ‘christian’ country?  What has gone wrong here?

This is a family that has been failed by not only the state but by society.This is a family that has been failed by overwhelmed charitable services that fill the vacuüm created by the state. This is a family that has been failed by the Government,led by a Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who earns more than the heads of Government of the bigger and more prosperous United Kingdom or France.The Minister with responsibility for housing seems to be on his holidays. His early  claim to fame was that he beefed up a train service for his own constituency and 73 commuters  at a cost of €20,000 per day. See news reports  here. Not only that, but in February last, having acquired the Environment portfolio he ‘bitched’ about Peter McVerry, a lifelong advocate for the homeless, suggesting that he was exaggerating the plight of the homeless, and that he was ‘negative’. See here.

Minister Alan Kelly. Image from Newstalk fm

Minister Alan Kelly. Image from Newstalk fm

In November 2014, the Irish Taoiseach,(Prime Minister- who as stated above is paid more than the French or British leaders) went on a walkabout to see for himself the population of  Irish people sleeping rough in Dublin. This was in response to the most embarrassing death of a homeless man, who chose to die on the steps of the Irish Parliament. Homeless people have died on a fairly regular basis across Ireland for years, in doorways, in parks, in refuse bins, but Jonathan Corrie chose to die at the very nerve centre of power,right there under the noses of those who have broadcast that everything is changing,austerity is over, we are all doing well, the economy is in great shape in this great little state of ours. Our ‘leading man’ rushed into action and went out among the homeless in Dublin City. He described seeing “rats skittering across sodden blankets”and a moment when “on Grafton Street, a Gucci sign beams over the remnants of humanity”. (Irish Times December 11, 2014). Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach, proudly announced that there would be a change of Government focus ”from exclusively on the economy to include societal needs’, saying: “Our homeless crisis is a kind of autopsy of our national life, our priorities”. The reality is that 9 months later we have charities handing out sleeping bags to children as there is no shelter to be had in the entire city of Dublin. This situation is unfortunately reflected across Ireland with housing crises in all major towns and cities.

Homelessness is an unfortuante fact of life, even in the most prosperous societies. The typical homeless person in Ireland was single,someone whose life had disintegrated because of breakdown in relationships,mental health issues, substance abuse,whether drugs or alcohol,or all the above. These unfortunates had the services stretched,particularly in winter in this wet,cold climate. But all of this has changed in recent times. The stereotypical homeless of Ireland have been joined by people who have been overtaken by economic hardship, through loss of employment,reduction in wages,shorter working hours on the one hand,and more taxes,such as property tax,Universal Social Charge and water charges as well as a rising cost of living, in particular escalating rents. After six years of recession now we have entire families becoming homeless. The statistics are shocking. From July 20 to 26th 2015, there were 657 homeless families in Ireland with 1,383 children. There was a sharp increase from the January figure of 401 homeless families with 865 children. (Irish Times August 17 2015) Families are sleeping in cars, on park benches. In many cases they have been evicted as they cannot meet the cost of escalating rents, or have got into arrears  from which they cannot extricate themselves. Others simply cannot find anywhere to rent as they simply do not have enough money. Meanwhile, the Government has failed to give better access to affordable housing for people in need.

Also in Dublin, hundreds flock to the Capuchin Day Centre for free breakfast and lunch and there can be over 1,000 people queuing for food parcels on Wednesday mornings.

Ireland enjoys an international reputation as a green and pleasant land of thatched cottages, red-haired children, donkeys, sandy beaches, rolling Atlantic waves, exquisite scenery, great culture and language, music and dance. Some elements of our diaspora love to highlight the injustice of the historic British rule of our nation. Let’s hear it from them now,let’s hear it from them and indeed from those at home who are willing to shout loudly about the failure of this Republic, about the indignity and the shame of three little children being handed out sleeping bags to spend the night in the open air in Dublin almost a century after the 1916 rising that we will celebrate – at huge expense next year.

Focus Ireland (with who I had the pleasure of working in Limerick on an enabling programme) can be found here.

Peter McVerry Trust can be found here.

Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People can be found here.

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Filed under Ireland, Living in Ireland, Social Justice, Social Policy, Working Poor

Young at heart? Why not OLD at heart!

“Aging…Not everyone gets here. We, all of us who looked battered and weathered, are more beautiful than we know.”so says Jan Wilberg on a wonderful piece of writing on her blog at   Red’s Wrap. 

It only takes a moment to read   – but it  will  be hours in your head!

Read on  here 
My thanks to Social Bridge  for reblogging this wonderful piece of writing from Jan Wilberg’s  blog.

 

 
http://redswrap.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/youre-asking-the-wrong-question/

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Older Generation, Social Policy

How We Teach Our Sons To Rape

Very powerful, insightful and shocking blog post about why men rape – WHY do we teach our girl children not to be raped, yet we don’t teach our boy children NOT TO RAPE girls? Why?

 

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Filed under Healthy Living, Social Justice, Social Policy

European e-inclusion awards 2012 – inspiration in action

Attended by 1,150 people, followed through internet live-streaming by another 4,000 and, with more than 1,000 social media contributions, I was honoured, thrilled and humbled to be part of the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2012.

The e-Inclusion Awards were established by the European Commission in 2008  ‘to discover and  celebrate organizations and individuals across Europe who champion new technology and harness the potential of the internet as a means of improving prospects, increasing employability and meeting today’s complex social and economic challenges‘.

Finalists Brochure

As one of only three finalists from across Europe in the category ‘ I am Part of IT  ‘ Personal Stories’ -(Larger Organizations) ‘ I was nominated by Age Action Ireland as a result of winning the Google /Age Action Silver Surfer Award, Social Networking category in 2011 . Age Action is an Irish  national charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. It actively encourages older people ( age 55+ ) to embrace social media. Their ‘Getting Started’ programme, spearheaded by the inspirational Pauline Power, promotes active e-inclusion and has been rolled out to over 6,000 people in the past four years.  Nominated as a finalist from entries from 34 countries,  Pauline accompanied me to the  Digital Media Agenda conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Day 1 was devoted to workshops, and our invitation was specifically for the Social Media workshop and feedback sessions,  with day 2 seeing the plenary sessions in the European Parliament chamber itself. Here we  were honoured to be among delegates to greet  Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, after her very eloquent address to the assembly. Among the academics, industrialists, politicians and social groups participating were  Professor Luciano Floridi from University of Hertfordshire and University of Oxford, Harry van Dorenmalen chairman of IBM Europe, Gyula Vamosi leader of the Roma  (Gypsy) community ; Anna Maria Darmanin , Vice President European Economic and Social Committee.

Whilst the conference focused on the ‘big picture’ with regard to the information society and the  breaking down of barriers to e- inclusion for all citizens of Europe, it is the ways in which ordinary people access and use the internet that demonstrates just how well the high level goals are making a difference to everyday lives.

Anna Maria Darmanin from Malta  presented the e-inclusion awards in the four categories.

There were 3 finalists in each of 4 different categories

I am part of IT – Personal stories, small organizations (< 19 employees).

The three finalists  were

  • Rosanna Nazir and Nila Smart from the Netherlands for their project helping  women looking for work in the Netherlands
  • Joy Matthews from Caerphilly, Wales and the 50+ Positive Action Partnership.
  • Elton Kalica , Italy . Elton was a most worthy and inspirational winner of this category . Arriving in Italy from Albania he found himself in prison for a long time. Through ICT skills he improved his capabilities,  did two university degrees  and now, having been released he has a good job on the ‘outside’; helping prisoners.

I am part of IT – Personal stories ,big organizations(>19 employees) 

The three finalists were

  • Marek Sikora, Chezh Republic. Marek was the first visually impaired ECDL tester in the Czech republic and he set up a not for profit organization Eye-T.cz to enable visiually impaired people take ICT skills tests.
  • Myself, Angela Gallagher, Republic of Ireland with Age Action , who in spite of living in a rural location without the benefit of broadband has embraced social media. My  experience of how technology can change a person’s life will hopefully inspire more older people to take the plunge and learn how to use computers and the internet.
  • Siemon Dekelver from Belgium had a story about ability, not disability. He was a most inspirational and worthy winner of this category, with WAI-NOT which provides mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn IT skills and lead happy and independent socially interactive lives.

Be part of IT –  small organizations .

Finalists were

  • From Romania – a project encouraging e training for 1.8 million people in Romania by reducing the skills gap between rural and urban communities
  • Inforum, Hungary – a project showing how kids and grandparents can encourage one another
  • Storybook Dads – UK were worthy winners –  the simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve the lives of families of a parent in prison was truly moving. Imprisoned parents record stories for children to be involved in their lives. The initiative has been shown to cut reoffending.

Be part of IT – big organizations.

The three finalists were

  • UK Online Centres  which help communities deal with social and digital exclusion . A network of 3,800 online communities spreads the word on digital inclusion.
  • Barcelona Activa,  Spain that promotes ICT training and skills  to improve employability
  • The Information Society Development Foundation Poland –  local libraries as agents for digital change. Thousands of librarians in thousands of remote communities have been trained to help otherwise excluded communities become e-included.

The judges felt that both the Barcelona Activa and Information Society Development Foundation from Poland were such extraordinary projects that touched the lives of so many, both were declared winners.

Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice President European Economic & Social Committee  (on extreme right) with finalists in the e-inclusion awards.

Each finalist had a wonderful story to tell. Each story was thoroughly inspirational, and each story was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of ordinary people who through personal efforts and dedication, made their own lives and the lives of others, extraordinary.

I am grateful  to Age Action Ireland for nominating me and especially to   Pauline Power who was with me in Brussels;  to my son Damian, author of his own excellent blog http://irishamericancivilwar.com/ for encouraging me to get started and for his  support in setting up this blog, and to the over 20,000 visitors to this site. Thank you all!

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Filed under Ageism, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Justice, Social Networking, Social Policy

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