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SVP conference marks 180 years of service to the most vulnerable in Irish society

Members from the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Galway were well represented alongside over 1,000 of their SVP colleagues at the recent members day event to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the Society in Ireland in Dublin’s Convention Centre.

Speakers on the day included Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and currently Chair of the Elders, SVP International President Juan Manuel Buergo Gómez

and Kevin Cunningham founder of Ireland Thinks.

The programme reflected on the Society’s history, current position in Irish society and the future with its Young SVP programme as a core part.

There were also messages of congratulations from President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Simon Harris, Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister Emma-Little Pengelly and former President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

Since its foundation in 1844, SVP has been serving the poorest and most vulnerable in Irish communities, through the Famine in the 19th century, two World Wars, an Uprising, a Civil War, cycles of economic austerity and a pandemic.

Calls for assistance in 2023 reached over 250,000 which is more than double the number of calls ten years ago.

The first conference, St Michan’s, was established in Dublin and from there the Society has spread through every one of the 32 counties meeting the needs of those who seek its help.

SVP national president Rose McGowan told the gathering that, throughout every period of change, their members have been a bedrock of support for hundreds of thousands of Irish people.

“And we should be proud of that,” she said.

“Offering a little help at the right time can give people great hope for the future. You show kindness towards people requesting your help.

“You also show compassion and empathy for people in difficult circumstances and approach their needs with discretion while being mindful of confidentiality and being respectful and non-judgmental.

“Visitation is of course not the only avenue we offer. There are our children and family services, shops, social housing and the necessary support services through national and regional offices,” she added.

She said that the day was not just an opportunity to celebrate the SVP’s history in Ireland but also to reflect and renew their commitment as the charity faces into yet another period of change.

“Our country’s strength is grounded in our ability to work together to solve problems and SVP will continue to fight for investment in our communities and services based on the dignity and human rights of all,” she said.

“As the largest charity organisation working with people affected by inequality, poverty and racism we can show leadership by lending our voice to those who promote a society built on respect, compassion and inclusion. We do not tolerate hatred or racism; everyone deserves to be helped and welcomed when in need.

“Our work is that of charity, and no act of charity is foreign to the Society.  Our support and friendship is to the person, regardless of their ethnic background or nationality.

“We need to make brave decisions at national and community level that put all human beings at the centre of securing homes, decent healthcare, incomes that help us thrive, community infrastructure and community cohesion for everyone.

“The Society will continue our calls for more effective leadership from Government and a more co-ordinated effort that takes a long-term approach to the challenges people and communities face because of insufficient services and resources,” she concluded.

Pictured: Transition year students from Glenamaddy Community School at the SVP’s conference to mark its 180th anniversary, with Niamh O’Flanagan (left) and Helen Lynn (right).


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