GAA Stars Unite To Tackle Social Issues

A group of current and former inter-county football, hurling and camogie players who are passionate about making a difference have united under the umbrella of ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’. The new player-led social movement is made up of volunteers from the four provinces who have been meeting weekly for the past two months.

Members include Tipperary hurlers Brendan Maher and Patrick Bonner Maher, Waterford hurler Noel Connors, Cork footballer Valerie Mulcahy, former Wexford hurling captain Diarmuid Lyng, Dublin footballers Eamon Fennell, Michael Darragh McAuley and Sinead Finnegan, Tyrone footballer Gemma Begley, and Cavan footballer Alan O’Mara, among others.

The group, which is supported by the GPA and WGPA, feel strongly that the GAA is based on community values and that they want to use their voice to support the most vulnerable in society. They have identified the housing and homeless crisis as a priority area to focus on but are also keen to look at areas such as mental health, gambling and racism.

During their research the group met with leading experts in the area of homelessness. They say they are alarmed by ISPCC reports that Ireland now has the highest child homelessness rate in Europe and that, according to Focus Ireland, there has been a 24% increase in homelessness in the past year.

Last week the group were involved with the Show Racism The Red Card initiative but attention is now turned towards an all-Ireland solidarity sleep-out’ from 6pm to 6am on Saturday December 16th that is designed to draw attention to the homelessness crisis, raise funds, and call for action.

Already over 150 county players and past players have signed up for the sleep-out which will take place in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Portlaoise, Waterford, Wexford and Carlow. New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy will also join his squad for the sleep-out. It is understood that squads in other locations, including London, are also looking at local events in their county towns. Players and squads wishing to register can do so online until next Monday.

The group are also appealing for help with tea and coffee, food, sleeping bags, music and entertainment, and fundraising in each of the sleep-out locations. People can also support by donating online at www.gaelicvoicesforchange.com. All funds raised will go to homeless charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre.

The group are on Twitter and Instagram @GaelicVoices4Ch and on Facebook at ‘Gaelic Voices For Change’.

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