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Thursday 2 October 2014

Brian O'Driscoll and Fr Peter McVerry are Freemen of the City

Published 22/03/2014 | 18:33

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They are men who have lived lives full of achievement in remarkably different spheres - one a hero of the masses, the other a voice for the voiceless.

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But retiring rugby star Brian O'Driscoll  and the tireless campaigner for the homeless Fr Peter McVerry are nevertheless two genuine Dublin heroes.

And tonight  both men received the ultimate accolade the capital has to offer when they were conferred Freemen of the City of Dublin.   

At a special ceremony in the historic Round Room of the Mansion House they joined an illustrious list  of Freemen and  Freewomen including former US presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, U2, Kevin Heffernan and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The award was originally announced last November but was delayed until early 2014 due to both men's hectic schedules. Last Saturday O'Driscoll signed off on his international career  in triumph as Ireland won the Six Nations Championship.

Victory in Paris  provided a fitting finale  to a glorious  international career for the best rugby player this country has ever produced.

Peter McVerry, a native of Co. Down, began his priestly ministry in the inner city of Dublin in 1974 where he came into contact with young people who were sleeping on the streets.

Brian O'Driscoll at the Mansion House where he was conferred  Freeman of Dublin City.
Photo: Tony Gavin 22/03/2014
Brian O'Driscoll at the Mansion House where he was conferred Freeman of Dublin City. Photo: Tony Gavin 22/03/2014
Fireman Joe Trimble with Brian O'Driscoll and Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn at the Mansion House where Brian was conferred  Freeman of Dublin City.
Photo: Tony Gavin 22/03/2014
Fireman Joe Trimble with Brian O'Driscoll and Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn at the Mansion House where Brian was conferred Freeman of Dublin City. Photo: Tony Gavin
Fr. Peter McVerrey at the Mansion House for his confering of Freeman of Dublin City.
Photo: Tony Gavin 22/03/2014
Fr. Peter McVerrey at the Mansion House for his confering of Freeman of Dublin City. Photo: Tony Gavin

He opened a hostel for homeless boys, aged 12-16, from the inner city in 1979. He remains on  the Board of Management of the hostel  now fully funded by the HSE.

 It was as a result of his experiences with boys leaving this hostel at 16 or 17 years of age and having nowhere to go, except back to the streets, that Peter McVerry set about providing services and accommodation for this older age group which he continues to this day.

SNTG FREEDOM 2.jpg 

O'Driscoll (34) who was born in Clontarf,  is in his final season as a player with Leinster and Ireland.

Before the ceremony, O'Driscoll  said he was “in awe” of  Fr McVerry and the work he does with the most disadvantaged

“What Peter does is life or death. He changes people's lives,” he said.

And the Jesuit priest was also full of praise   of O'Driscoll as a role model for young people.

“Brian is an icon, he has achieved everything that you can achieve in his particular world of rugby,” Fr McVerry said.

“He is a role model for young people and has brought a huge amount of joy and pride to many people because of his achievements.”

Among the ancient privileges afforded to a Freeman or Freewoman is the right to bring goods into Dublin through the city gates, without paying customs duties; the right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries including St Stephen's Green, and the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections.

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