'I'd go abroad', says BOD as he gets freedom of city – but not free parking
Published 23/03/2014 | 02:30
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.
But retiring rugby star Brian O'Driscoll and the campaigner for the homeless Fr Peter McVerry are nevertheless two genuine Dublin heroes.
And last night, both men received the ultimate accolade the capital has to offer when they were conferred Freemen of the City of Dublin at the Mansion House. Others conferred with the honour include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and U2.
Fr McVerry said the honour was also a recognition of the homeless and homelessness which he said was now at epidemic levels.
"When I started, there were 1,000 homeless in Dublin; now there are 5,000," he said.
Brian O'Driscoll said he felt particularly honoured to be recognised by his native city. He said when he had finished two " busy" months with Leinster, he was looking forward to retirement and taking a long break – for some months. And he revealed that if the acting career of his wife Amy Huberman meant opportunities overseas, in the US or the UK, he would gladly join her on the "next great adventure".
Last Saturday, O'Driscoll signed off on his international career in triumph as Ireland won the Six Nations Championship.
Peter McVerry, a native of Co Down, began his ministry in the inner city of Dublin in 1974, where he came into contact with young people who were sleeping on the streets.
Before the ceremony, O'Driscoll said he was "in awe" of Fr McVerry and the work he does with the most disadvantaged and he repeated the tribute in the Mansion House where he was joined by his wife Amy and parents Frank and Geraldine.
Among the ancient privileges afforded to a Freeman or Freewoman is the right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries. During a press conference, both men joked that they thought the honour might also include the perk of free parking for life in Dublin city centre. It doesn't.