Official figures estimate that at any given time there are around 8600 people homeless in Ireland. By a rough estimate there are around 4500 players who pull on the jersey on senior inter county panels in hurling, football, ladies football and camogie. To understand the scale of the homeless issue in Ireland, if every single one of those players were homeless, if would only be equivalent to just over half of the number of people who live without a permanent home every day.
This weekend across Ireland we witnessed a remarkable display of solidarity and support as Current and former GAA county players staged a solidarity sleep out to raise awareness and funds for homeless people.
The initiative was led by the likes of Diarmuid Lyng, Gemma Begley, Eamon Fennell, Brendan Maher, and supported by players from every county. It was supported and driven by the GPA and the WGPA and volunteers were mobilised online to help raised funds and spread the word.
“The homeless in Ireland are not a problem, they are simply people who have come upon difficult times and circumstances.”
Fr Peter McVerry
The Solidarity Sleepout out had a simple message:
“We are a voluntary group of past and present inter-county GAA players who, supported by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and Women's Gaelic Players Association (WGPA), have come together to form 'Gaelic Voices for Change', a community action initiative that shines a light on important social issues. Our initial focus is on the escalating housing and homeless crisis.
The sleep out on Saturday night took place in 12 towns and cities: Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, New York, Boston, Belfast, Carlow, Naas, Portlaoise, Sligo, and Wexford.
The aim was to generate solidarity, funds, awareness, and action. At the time of writing the amount raised through donations and contributions was edging towards €200,000. All funds raised will go to homeless charities north and south including the Peter McVerry Trust, DePaul, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre, Cope Galway, Thomand House and Novas in Limerick, and the Welcome Organisation in Belfast.
Last year at the announcement of funding for inter county players, Dessie Farrell of the GPA commented: “This new arrangement will facilitate the development of an important programme between Government and Players in tackling some of the more intractable societal challenges in Ireland today.
"This will happen through a more targeted approach and will leverage the role model status of many of our top county players to influence positive change. Players look forward to taking an even more prominent role in making a meaningful difference, particularly, in the lives our young people across the country.”
It is tremendously encouraging that our players, who are the future leaders of the country can use their role to heighten awareness of such a pressing issue, particularly coming into the Christmas season. The fact is that people affected are homeless for a variety of reasons and it affects whole families and not just individuals.
Our Gaelic players, male and female are role models in clubs and counties throughout Ireland and it is fantastic that they are using their influence to raise awareness on what are critical issues. There is no doubt that players can be a force for good and the initiative is fantastic.
If you wish to donate to the Gaelic Voices for Change Initiative, you can still do so at https://donate.everydayhero.com/d/DT9gT7hWXWyoYY8Xk4mNNA/amount