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Northern Ireland news

GAA players sleep rough to fight homelessness

Dozens of GAA members at the sleep-out in Cork
Andrew Madden

MORE than 400 GAA players from across Ireland have come together for a charity sleep-out in aid of homelessness.

Current and former Gaelic football, hurling and camogie players united under the name "Gaelic Voices for Change" for Saturday’s campaign, which comprised of a series of sleep-outs in 13 locations across Ireland and abroad.

Players slept out from 6pm to 6am in 13 towns and cities, from Limerick to Belfast and even as far away as Boston in the US and Quebec in Canada.

Supported by the Gaelic Player’s Association and the Women’s Gaelic Player’s Association, Gaelic Voices for Change have already raised more than €120,000 for homeless charities on both sides of the border.

Cork GAA star Valerie Mulcahy said she felt it was important for players to use their influence to bring about change.

"I feel like it's important to use our voices as players and help those that are vulnerable in our society, not turn our back on them. That is why I am taking part and doing what I can to help. It's not acceptable to have people homeless in Ireland," she said.

"Gaelic Games are built on communities, with a collective sense of belonging and supporting your neighbour."

Those taking part in the campaign include the new Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy, who joined his squad for the sleep-out, as will the Clare hurling squad who will join the Limerick event. The Carlow women's football team and Laois hurlers are also participating as squads.

Former Wexford senior inter-county hurler Diarmuid Lyng alluded to the recent spate of deaths among rough sleepers in the south.

"Homelessness is an issue because there are people dying on the street sleeping when there are the means, but not the desire, to house them," he said.

"Not having a desire to house them is a reflection on all of us, not just our politicians. This is being branded and rebranded as acceptable and even normal by those in charge. We no longer can accept this level of inequality and injustice.

"We engage most effectively through community. Not just a geographical community but by anything that brings people together. Hurling, football and camogie bring us together.

"If we can do our small bit and engage as many of those people as possible, we are contributing to a fairer and a more compassionate society. This isn't just the role of Gaelic Voices For Change, this is a role we all share."

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