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press releases 2001

dcu confers honorary doctorate on fr peter mcverry s.j.

Champion of young homeless people, Fr Peter McVerry, SJ, has been conferred with an honorary doctorate by Dublin City University.

Born in Belfast in 1944, Fr McVerry attended the Christian Brothers School in Newry and Clongowes Wood College. He entered the Jesuit order in 1962 and received a BSc from UCD in 1968. He studied philosophy and theology in Jesuit School of Theology in Milltown Park.

After his ordination as a priest in 1975 Fr McVerry lived and worked in Summerhill in Dublin's the North Inner City. Here he came face to face with the problem of homelessness and depravation and in 1979 he opened a hostel for young homeless boys aged between twelve and sixteen. In 1983 he founded the Arrupe Society to provide care and accommodation for homeless boys and opened further hostels in Ballymun, Drumcondra and Glasnevin. These hostels are especially geared to those who fail to meet the regulations of many other hostels that stipulate that residents must be employed or attending a course. In particular, he has sought to cater for those deemed to be simply too difficult to deal with by other agencies. Fr McVerry recently opened a residential drug detox centre in Co Dublin for homeless drug users.

Fr McVerry has lived in Ballymun since 1980.

Speaking at the conferring ceremony, the president of Dublin City University, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski said that Fr Peter McVerry provides an exceptional service to young people who find themselves homeless and vulnerable to drugs. "His ministry focuses on taking care of those whom society would often rather forget. He is a vocal conscience that challenges Government, public agencies and an increasingly affluent Irish population to question our views on homelessness and social exclusion and to see shelter, security and somewhere to sleep as fundamental rights, not as privileges dispensed by charity. Through the award of this honorary doctorate, DCU wishes to honour Fr McVerry, and to commit itself to playing a key role in the development of a more inclusive and fairer society."

About 400 young people under the age of 18 become homeless each year in the Dublin area and an unknown number in the other cities and towns of Ireland. Many are adequately looked after, either by foster parents or in residential homes. But, a small number of young people cannot get any place at all, sometimes because no beds are available, sometimes because their behaviour is too difficult. These are the people to whom Fr Peter McVerry reaches out. These are the people whom Fr Peter McVerry claims the system, as it currently operates, cannot help.

Earlier this year Fr Peter McVerry called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Forum on Youth Homelessness and establish an Independent Board to take responsibility for the issue. He also believes that the Cabinet should contain a Minister for Children and that an Ombudsman for Children should be appointed. While working in a practical way on the ground, Fr McVerry will continue to campaign for the rights and dignity of young homeless people in our prosperous and successful economy.



For further details:

Eilis O'Brien, Tel: 700 5217 or 087 2057125
Eileen Colgan, Tel: 7005656