Last Saturday in Dublin’s Mansion House, when Peter McVerry SJ was given the freedom of the city, he saved the ceremony from becoming too solemn for himself and fellow-freeman Brian O’Driscoll. As the Irish Times reported: “Accepting the award to a standing ovation, he reassured the audience that he would be ‘available at any time to defend the city of Dublin with my bow and arrow should the Russians roll their tanks in.’ (One ancient duty of Dublin’s freemen is to protect the city from attack, arming themselves for the task with a sword, and a longbow made of yew.)
In 1979 Peter opened his first hostel for homeless boys. Since then he has built a network of eleven hostels, more than 100 apartments, and a detox centre, with 3000 benefiting from his services last year. And yet, by his own account, he remains a failure. “When I started off there were 1000 homeless people. Now it is 5000. Brian has achieved everything in rugby. What have I achieved?”
Peter does not rest on his laurels. Earlier in the week he had published a powerful Opinion column in the Irish Times, reiterating his dismay at the worsening blight of homelessness in Dublin. It was a sharp, angry, well-documented piece. Click here to read it.
Photographs by Graham Seely.