Irish actor and director Terry McMahon has called on the people of Ireland – and its diaspora – to invoke the spirit of the past to help the country’s most vulnerable citizens
He is supporting the Home Sweet Home campaign – a crowdfunding project intended to highlight the worrying levels of homelessness in Ireland.
It has collected over €145,000 of its €500,000 goal since it was launched a week ago and Terry believes the overwhelming response is a sign of changing times.
He told The Irish World: “It should have been taken up a while ago but it wasn’t, for whatever reason. Whether due to fear, cowardice, oppression or commerce, it hasn’t been picked up.
“But now you’ve got a group of people who’ve got this spirit – a spirit that has been reborn – and they have decided, collectively, to do something about it.”
As well as raising funds, activists from Home Sweet Home have turned Dublin’s Apollo House into a homeless shelter.
Yesterday the Irish High Court ruled that the property must be vacated by 11 January.
The judge added that there must be no more than 40 people staying in the office building each night and that the occupiers co-operate with the receivers, with particular reference to the building’s electricity supply.
“He’s bound by the law and he’s acted in the only manner he can, but you can see that there’s a heart beating inside him,” Terry said.
“He wants to reach out and help people but, in terms of what happens next, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Terry hit the headlines this week after a video of him giving a speech at the Axis Theatre in Ballymun went viral.
He explained that this in itself has become a movement and that the number of likes and shares it has received represents a genuine social engagement.
“I wrote [the speech] under fear and duress for Jim Sheridan. He asked me to put something down for the campaign and essentially told me to write the truth, which is what I did,” he said.
“Seeing the reaction, that has become something in itself. The way people have taken it on board clearly makes the subject matter noteworthy.”
In the speech he makes multiple references to the men and women of 1916, stressing that the Ireland of today – “our Ireland” – has struggled to uphold the values they fought for.
In this centenary year, he calls on people to reverse the trend and, based on the reaction to the Home Sweet Home campaign and the video, it seems as if people have taken note.
“On a simple level it’s a humanistic approach to helping the most vulnerable people who have been let down by their country and rendered ghosts in their own culture,” Terry said.
“When we speak about equality, it’s important to remember that it’s not a throwaway sentence.
“People need to realise that we do not live in an equal society and for allowing that to happen, we should be held culpable.
“We’re a magnificent people but we’ve lost our way and that shouldn’t be the case – we should be the envy of the entire world.
“There’s a group of remarkable citizens who’ve been betrayed by the law but we appreciate that there is a higher, moral law.”
More and more people are getting behind the campaign through monetary donations and other support methods in a bid to tackle Ireland’s homelessness crisis.
While Terry appreciates the value in this, he believes it is essential that people continue to promote the cause and do everything they can to address the issue.
Calling on the diaspora
This extends to the diaspora, he added; particularly those in the UK who regularly return home, since they can view things from an “outsiders” perspective.
“Like any beacon of hope, you hope that ideas can be borne into the seed and it will grow into something truly special. If people identify it and want to copy it, let them copy it,” he explained.
“The diaspora are also part of this movement because wherever they’ve gone, they have taken the spirit of Ireland with them.
“And they have not been subject to what we have in this country so, if anything, that fire will burn greater and that spirit will remain even more alive.”
The story is gaining momentum, and for Terry, the experience is a very personal one.
For more information on the work and aims of Home Sweet Home, visit: www.gofundme.com/home-sweet-home-ireland