Monday, 24 October 2011

Men of Arlington documentary tonight

 I did a lot of campaigning on the issue when I was on the London Assembly. London Irish homelessness is often hidden. These men (it is mostly men) came over and sometimes did not get involved in society or the welfare system. Many of them contributed to relatives at home, and are now forgotten, many also succumbed to drink and the other problems associated with immigration. The Irish are the only group whose life expectancy drops when the come to England. I also helped save the Cricklewood Centre when the Church attempted to close it down.
.....................This is from the Irish Times newspaper:
For generations of Irish emigrants to London, the cavernous Arlington House in Camden provided a home away from home. The massive redbrick edifice, which was mentioned by George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London, is more than a century old and remains a place of refuge from the street for many Irish men.

Many of its long-term residents are Irish. Over the years many of them succumbed to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression and homelessness and other perils of forced emigration.

Though Arlington House is not a home in the conventional sense, they have found solace and comradeship there, as well as a roof over their heads.

The residents of Arlington House are the subjects of a moving documentary, which will be broadcast on BBC1 tonight. Men of Arlington focuses on three residents of the London hostel, two of whom still live there.

Peter Doyle (pictured) was born to a single mother and spent his first 15 years in Irish institutions. He left for England in search of a better life and found a bed in Arlington House. Half a century later it is still his home. Seamus Morgan O'Connell is a descendent of Daniel O'Connell. He was also educated at Ampleforth, the top Catholic public school in Britain, but lost everything after his business collapsed when he was 37. He has been there for 25 years.

The third, Joe McGarry, ended up on the street, but got his life back and went on to chair the housing association that looked after Arlington House.

In advance of the screening of the documentary tonight, comedian Ardal O'Hanlon has written an open letter to the Taoiseach asking him to provide a community resettlement scheme for homeless Irish men in London who want to live in Ireland. O'Hanlon is patron of the Aisling Return to Ireland project, which provides trips to Ireland - in many cases for people who have not been back for decades. In his letter O'Hanlon said there was no willingness on the part of any Government department to take responsibility for this "faceless, voiceless and voteless constituency".

Men of Arlington is on BBC1 at 10.35pm tonight.

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