Greenway walk “In the footsteps of Irish Emigrants”

Mayo Walk 2013: In the Footsteps of Irish Emigrants

The Irish Chaplaincy has organised its third annual Mayo Walk – “In the Footsteps of Irish Emigrants” – from Mulranny to Newport via the beautiful Great Western Greenway on Saturday 17 August. This year’s walk is taking place as part of the celebrations of the Year of Faith, National Heritage Week and The Gathering Ireland. 

People are invited to come along and enjoy a fun day in the open air while experiencing the incredible beauty and heritage of the Great Western Greenway, Mulranny Trailhead, Co Mayo. Archbishop Charles J Brown, Papal Nuncio to Ireland will be participating along with staff and volunteers who work with the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain and Ireland.

Details of the walk

Meet at 10.30am for an 11.00am start at the Trailhead, Mulranny for a walk from there to Newport along the Great Western Greenway. There will be a variety of walks for all ages and abilities. Registration and participation in the walk are free. Individual walkers are welcome to collect sponsorship so as to make a donation to support the work of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain.

The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain
The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain (ICB) is an organisation based in London which has worked with Irish emigrants since the 1950s. While some of the issues facing Irish people in Britain have changed since the 1950s there remains a great demand for the services of the Chaplaincy. As the number of Irish people leaving home increases, so too are the demands placed on Irish welfare organisations abroad.

Conn Mac Gabhann, originally from Omagh and now working in London with the Irish Chaplaincy explained that the work of their organisation is very diverse: “We have three projects the Seniors Project, the Prisoners Project and the Traveller Project, and the demand for our services has never been higher. A lot of the people who came over for work in the 50s and 60s find themselves with little support. There are over a thousand Irish prisoners. And then the current government seems keen to evict Irish Travellers from sites which they own, such as Dale Farm in Essex. So we are kept very busy.

Mac Gabhann made the point that the number of young Irish people coming to London in particular has rocketed: “I play hurling for a club in South London called Cūchulainn’s. We’re a small club and we’ve always struggled to get a squad. Recently we doubled the number of players on our books. Young men who can’t get work at home are arriving over here each week and sleeping on the sofa of a friend. Despite the great qualifications many of them have they’re struggling to find any work, even low-paid work.”

Speaking about the Chaplaincy’s Traveller Project, he went on to say: “Travellers are a group whose voices often go unheard in society, and particularly in prison. Our work aims to address that and highlight the particular challenges faced by Travellers in prison. As an Irish Catholic organisation it is vitally important that our vision of the Irish community includes and welcomes all Irish people in Britain from whatever background they come.”

‘The Irish in Britain still face casual discrimination. You only have to look at the comments by the Deputy Mayor of London about Irish builders or the Chairman of Essex County Council speaking about ‘Irish criminals.’ It’s still acceptable in some quarters.’

Research on Traveller issues is just one of the ways the Irish Chaplaincy is working to promote the welfare of the broader Irish community in Britain. More often than not their day-to-day work is in care homes in places like Bermondsey or on a prison wing, just reminding people that they are important. In almost every part of England there are Irish people who are in touch with us for help with different issues. It could be an older man living alone in a flat in London who needs to contact family at home in Ireland or help contacting the local council for something. Or it could be visiting an Irish man in prison in Preston, or supporting a Travelling family facing eviction.

Further information on the Mayo Walk and the work of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain is available on www.irishchaplaincy.org.uk.

Notes to Editors:

· Registration and participation in the Walk are FREE. Please register interest in attending at www.thegatheringireland.org/irishchaplaincy

· Donations can be made by cheque payable to Irish Chaplaincy, or online at www.charitychoice.co.uk/irishchaplaincy

· Media who would like to join the walk please contact Eugene Dugan on + 44 (0) 207 482 5528

· For a story about Archbishop Brown (Papal Nuncio) and his interest in walking/trekking, see http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/2012/10/03/it-all-came-together-in-the-himalayas/

Statements from some of those who will be taking part in the walk:

Eugene Dugan, Director, Irish Chaplaincy in Britain

Hometown: New York City

As part of the diaspora (my family emigrated from Bogside, Derry) I understand the challenges of those who leave behind the familiar faces and places and set off in search of a better life. But it doesn’t always turn out the way one might hope. The Irish Chaplaincy is there for those whose dreams did not come true, and funding from this Walk will allow us to continue to serve those who may need a friendly voice or substantial assistance.

Father Gerry McFlynn, Project Manager, Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas

Hometown: Newcastle, Co Down

This year I’m marking 20 years of work with the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain by walking the emigrant path in Co Mayo to raise money for the Chaplaincy which helps prisoners, Travellers and elderly Irish people cope better with their circumstances. We help them make their futures better by living the present differently.

Conn Mac Gabhann, Project Manager, Irish Chaplaincy Traveller Project

Hometown: Omagh

The Irish Chaplaincy is working to promote the welfare of the broader Irish community in Britain. More often than not our day-to-day work is in care homes in places like Bermondsey or on a prison wing, just reminding people that they are important. In almost every part of England there are Irish people who are in touch with us for help with different issues. I am walking to raise funds to make sure this help can continue.

Joanna Joyce, Emigrant Officer, Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants

Although the experience of emigration has in some ways improved it is important that we continue to support and remember those Irish emigrants who for a variety of reasons find themselves isolated and alone, in particular the elderly Irish community abroad, the Irish Traveller community in the UK, and Irish prisoners overseas. The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain cares for these particularly vulnerable groups and funds raised from this Walk will allow them to continue to offer essential support to those who need it most.

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