Rugby legend praises Newry priest’s work
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
IRISH rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll has hailed the work of a Newry-born priest, saying his work with homeless people in Dublin has helped change thousands of lives.
Fr Peter McVerry shared a stage with O'Driscoll, known across the world as BOD, on Saturday evening as both men were awarded the Freedom of Dublin.
The Jesuit priest received the award for his work with homeless people in Dublin over the last 40 years, during which he has helped establish 12 hostels - three for young people under 18 and nine for homeless adults - as well as four drug treatment centres in the Irish capital.
The pair now join a famous group of people that have been awarded the prestigious title, including Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and U2.
Hailing Fr McVerry's work, rugby star BOD said: "What Peter does is life or death, he changes peoples' lives."
Fr McVerry grew up in Newry and was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers' Grammar School before attending the Jesuit school at Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare.
His began working with young homeless people in the mid 1970s and he set up the charity now known as the Peter McVerry Trust in 1983.
He still remains actively involved in the charity and works from the Open Access Centre a drop in service operated by Peter McVerry Trust.
It was for this work that Dublin City Council decided to make him Honorary Freeman of the City.
Speaking at Saturday night's ceremony, Dublin Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn said: "The Freedom of the City is the biggest honour Dublin City can bestow on one of its citizens and it is my privilege as Lord Mayor of Dublin to be the one to confer this honour on both Brian and Peter.
“This ancient honour is traditionally bestowed on people who have displayed exceptional leadership and inspiration to their fellow Dubliners. There is no doubt that this is true of both Peter and Brian."
O'Driscoll, fresh from helping Ireland win the Six Nations, was chosen to receive this honour to pay homage to the rich legacy of passion, pride, success and leadership he will leave to Irish sport and life.
Fr McVerry said: "Brian is an icon, he has achieved everything that you can achieve in his particular world of rugby. He is a role model for young people and has brought a huge amount of joy and pride to many people because of his achievements."
The Freedom has previously been conferred on 76 people ranging from Presidents to Prisoners of Conscience to people in Sports and Entertainment. The first recipient of the Freedom of the City was Isaac Butt in 1876. The most recent recipients were Thomas Kinsella and Louis le Brocquy in 2007.
Fr McVerry and O'Driscoll were presented with a gift from the City specially commissioned for the occasion called 'The Wave Sculptures'.
Speaking to the Democrat in November when it was announced that he was to receive the honour, Fr McVerry said: "If it can push the homeless agenda up the political ladder a little a bit, I'll be very, very happy."
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