Keir Starmer

Some Christmas cheer

On Friday I went to see John McGeaney, to take him one of the Camden New Journal’s Christmas hampers. 

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Mr McGeaney, who is 81, came from County Mayo and spent his life working in Liverpool and London. He thanked Paul Raymond, from the Irish Chaplaincy Service who had arranged the visit, and I for the hamper, explaining that he plans to visit his local pub on Christmas day.

The Chaplaincy is delivering 30 hampers - the last going out next Tuesday.

The Chaplaincy works out of the Irish Centre, on Camden Square. It is a lifeline for the large Irish community both in Camden and across Britain.

Established by the Irish Bishops, they provide a service for isolated and vulnerable members of the community.

This includes linking up with Irish travellers and also making contact and providing help to the approximately 1,000 Irish people in British jails. Much of this involves visits and keeping people in touch with their families. 

Sometimes it involves trying to find families that have lost touch with their member in Britain for many years.

Recently one man died and staff working out of the Irish Centre managed to get in contact with a local history group, who put a story up on their website. Finally his sister contacted them saying it was her brother, whom she had not seen for 25 years. The Chaplaincy is arranging for the body to be returned home.

It was a real pleasure to visit the Chaplaincy at the Irish Centre and to meet some of the staff, including Paul Raymond.

It was a reminder that at a time of the year when many of us are taking time off with our families and friends of those in our community who have neither. If there is someone in your street or block of flats who may be isolated or lonely over this festive season might you pop round say hello?

It can make a huge difference.

I am taking some time off myself and will be back at work in the New Year.

In the meantime season’s greetings and best wishes for 2016!