A total of 95 projects in Galway City and County have received more than €9.6million from the bequest to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP ) from the will of the late Maureen O’Connell former owner of O’Connell’s pub in Eyre Square.
Since the donation in 2007, the original bequest totalling €7.73 million grew to €10.5m through accumulated bank interest and other income.The bequest has now been fully drawn down or allocated and a detailed report on its use and the projects which have benefitted was published this week Entitled “A Living Legacy’ the report describes how funds from Miss O’Connell’s estate were disbursed.
In addition to SVP projects, there were several other organisations in Galway City and County which benefitted from the bequest.
The range of spending has been on enhancing education, developing family resilience, accommodation, enabling community development, improving quality of life for older people and improving life opportunities for young people.
The funding for the 95 projects involved:
Substantial capital projects, including St Vincent de Paul social housing;
After-school homework clubs for children who are experiencing educational disadvantage;
Family skills programmes to strengthen communication between parents and their teenage children;
Training for unemployed people to help them return to work;
Resource centres providing a range of services to older people, families and younger people, particularly individuals who are socially isolated or marginalised;
Counselling for young people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives;
Community and youth facilities provided by St Vincent de Paul and other organisations.
Direct assistance to over 3,000 households and over 8,500 participants through family and community programmes.
Projects funded were carefully monitored to ensure that the funding was only used for the agreed purposes.
The fund had a separate administration and accounts management separate from the main SVP structure in the region. The costs for administering came to eight per cent of the fund. The accounts were audited annually by independent auditors.
All funding came entirely from the Maureen O’Connell bequest and did not involve any public or corporate donations.
The bequest has now been almost fully disbursed and the winding up procedure is in progress.
Harry Kenney, Chairman of the Maureen O’Connell Bequest Committee said the Maureen O’Connell bequest has provided an opportunity for St. Vincent de Paul to make a lasting difference through investing in projects and activities that aim to increase the resilience of families, individuals and communities and to tackle the causes of poverty and social exclusion in Galway city and county.
“This would not have been possible without the kindness and generosity of the late Maureen O’Connell for which we are very grateful. The building which houses the SVP Resource Centre in Galway (Croi na Gaillimhe ) has been renamed Maureen O’Connell House as a lasting tribute to her memory. Go ndéana Dia Trócaire uirthi.”
Maureen O’Connell was the proprietor of O’Connell’s public house in Eyre Square, Galway City who died in 1998. Her bequest to the Society of St Vincent de Paul was for the general objectives and purposes of the Society in Galway city and county.
The funds from her estate became available to SVP in 2007.
Following consultation with St Vincent de Paul members and representatives of local community, voluntary and statutory organisations, a plan on how the bequest was to be used was drawn up.
This plan covered three main headings; community, family and individual.
The aim was to provide support to vulnerable families and individuals. Most of the funding has been used to further SVP objectives and purposes. It was decided, however, after consultation to support other organisations already involved in the community and voluntary sector who were being affected by cuts in their funding due to the severe economic downturn and this support contributed to enabling them to continue their work.
Michael McCann, President SVP West Region said the Maureen O’Connell bequest was administered separately from the main work of St Vincent de Paul, which is to provide assistance through visiting people in their homes.
“However, the aims are the same. In addition to the various projects, the fund was able to support individuals and families through visitation conferences (local member groups ) in situations in which the amount of funding required would be outside the scope of the conferences,” he said.