25 years of fundraising

Business | Sat 15 Jun | Author – Business & Finance

Ireland Day at London Stock Exchange was a fitting occasion to honour the Ireland Fund of Great Britain’s 25th anniversary, which takes place on June 21st, writes the Funds CEO, Sheila Bailey.

The lives of Irish people in the UK have changed dramatically since Sir Tony O’Reilly originally set up the Ireland Fund, but the need for its work continues apace. Basil Geoghegan, co-chairman of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain and MD of UK Banking and Broking at Citi, recently received an award from Ian Hyland of Ireland INC for his work with this important organisation.

The Ireland Fund of Great Britain is essentially a fundraising organisation that financially supports the promotion of peace, reconciliation, education, culture and relief of poverty in the UK and Ireland.

In recent times it has focused on the ‘Forgotten Irish’ campaign which was devised and launched with the help of the charity’s patron, Peter Sutherland, in 2007.

This campaign aims to help those who emigrated from Ireland to the UK but have fallen on hard times and had been ‘forgotten’ amid the roar of the Celtic Tiger.

The work is underpinned by groundbreaking research commissioned by the Ireland Fund of Great Britain to determine the needs of the Irish community in the UK.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so it has not gone unnoticed that this campaign has been adopted by other Ireland Funds, including the USA and Ireland.

Over time, other cohorts of the Forgotten Irish became apparent including the women of the Magdalene Laundries, many of whom now live in Great Britain. This extraordinary group had been battling for years for recognition and to seek justice for their suffering during incarceration in the Magdalene Laundries. Causes like this can be understandably difficult to fund, as the existence of the laundries was unknown to many.

In early 2011 Geoghegan, with three months leave arranged, decided to climb Mount Everest as both a personal challenge and to raise funds to support the victims of institutional abuse. He achieved both goals, summiting Everest on the morning of the May 19th and in doing so raised over £133,000 for this particular group of forgotten Irish.
For the Ireland Fund of Great Britain our success must be measured by the pace set by the weak as well as the success of the strong. The charity has funded vital services that make a significant and immediate difference to the lives of those in need.

The causes we support include vital services such as the Southwark Irish Pensioners Group, a vibrant, popular and essential community group that allows the elderly Irish residents of the area to meet up, socialise, enjoy the lunch club and avoid the isolation and loneliness that affects so many like them.

This group also has an outreach service that is best placed to help those that are confined to their homes due to health issues.

Another crucial service that is repeatedly supported is the Irish Elderly Advice Network who provide housing and benefit advice – far from the stereotype of immigrants abusing the welfare system the Irish community tends not to avail itself of all that it is entitled to.

This reliable advice service, free at the point of delivery, can mean the difference between ending one’s life in poverty and seeing out one’s days with a degree of dignity in a warm, safe environment.

Fundraising

Throughout 2013 the charity will be hosting a number of fundraising events to support its work. In September there is a joint project with the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in London to promote and participate in an epic cycle ride from Lands End to John O’Groats, which is the brainchild of London solicitor Bernard McEvoy and his colleague Neill Shrimpton from Brown Rudnick.

“Having watched a number of programmes on the Forgotten Irish, I was and am always, moved by the conditions that some Irish people are living in. A number of close relations of my parents came to the UK in the 50s and 60s. For those who have been forgotten, I believe we as a nation owe them something better,” was McEvoy’s explanation for this ambitious and audacious cycle expedition.

It seemed fitting that just after receiving the award, Geoghegan announced his retirement as co-chairman as he assumes the role of patron, alongside Peter Sutherland.

He commented: “Having spent 13 years in different roles within The Ireland Fund of Great Britain I want to let others lead our efforts after our 25th anniversary. The organisations which our donors support, and the Forgotten Irish campaign, remain as important as ever to me.”

It’s important at this time to celebrate our success to date, thank everyone who has donated or helped us in some way, but also to look to the next 25 years.

Our commitment is as strong today as it was 25 years ago and we are determined that through our work there shall be no more Forgotten Irish in Great Britain.