Cork Penny Dinners pleads with Government to use 1916 money to help homeless

The key figure in a charity which is feeding almost 2,000 people a week has issued an impassioned plea to government to divert some of the €22m 1916 commemoration funding to help the hungry and homeless.

Cork Penny Dinners pleads with Government to use 1916 money to help homeless

Cork Penny Dinners volunteer co-ordinator, Caitriona Twomey, said properly funding the services which help the most vulnerable of society would be a more “fitting tribute” to our 1916 heroes.

“Because I’m sure the people who died for Ireland in 1916, for our freedom, would be very unhappy with the state of affairs in our country today,” she said.

“They would much prefer if money was ploughed into all the services.

“I would urge government ministers to look at what matters, to have a heart.

“Forget telling us about all the big things because to a lot of people they don’t mean anything. To a lot of hungry people, they mean less.

“Look at what our country is turning into. Poverty is growing and I’m sure our 1916 heroes would prefer if some of that commemoration money went towards feeding and housing our people next year rather than on big huge celebrations.”

Despite the Government talking up recovery, Ms Twomey said more people are seeking help from the soup kitchen charity than ever.

“We are not seeing a recovery on the ground. A lot of people haven’t turned that corner yet,” she said.

She was speaking after a complete makeover at the charity’s Little Hanover St premises in the city centre was unveiled at the weekend.

Ms Twomey said they have seen a new trend emerge in recent months where people who have exhausted whatever financial reserves they had, are now relying on Cork Penny Dinners.

Clients now include people who have lost jobs in the last 12 months, students in overpriced accommodation who can’t afford food, and the hidden homeless — families who have lost their homes but who have been taken in by other families.

“Food seems to be the one thing that always suffers. People prioritise the mortgage or rent, or heating,” she said.

“And when a family takes in another family, it’s a huge burden on the family that takes them in — so they’re all short of food.”

The charity is now serving 1,800 hot meals a week, has begun mounting food runs to vulnerable housebound clients, and it is planning to introduce an in-house medical and dentistry service next year.

The Government plans to spend some €22m on the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations next year.

The funding, which came from the sale of state assets, features six flagship projects, including:

  • The construction of an extended exhibition and interpretive centre at the GPO to house a permanent 1916 Easter Rising exhibition;
  • The adaptation by the OPW of the former courthouse building for use as a new visitor facility for Kilmainham Gaol;
  • Refurbishment of the Military Archives building at Cathal Brugha Barracks;
  • A new tenement museum at 14 Henrietta St;
  • Refurbishment of Richmond Barracks, where the 1916 Rising leaders were held after surrendering.

The money will also help upgrade the National Concert Hall where the treaty debates took place, and the National Archives.

Cork Penny Dinners, which was founded by the Quakers as a soup kitchen during the Famine, is one of the country’s oldest food charities.

Thanks to a massive volunteer effort, its cramped Little Hanover St premises have been transformed over the last five weeks.

The entire process, which was overseen by celebrity hoteliers John and Francis Brennan, will be screened as part of their At Your Service Christmas Day TV special on RTE.

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