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Partying with the President at homeless shindig

IT started more than 50 years ago with just 40 homeless people gathering in a night shelter.

However, last night more than 400 people attended 'Eric's Party', the annual shindig organised by the Dublin Lions Club for the homeless and those living alone. It is named in honour of Eric Webb, the Lions Club member who had the idea for the first gathering back in 1960.

Despite arriving midway through dinner, partygoers nonetheless gave President Michael D Higgins a rousing welcome as he walked into the Irish Life Centre on Abbey Street.

"Enjoy the evening, enjoy the entertainment," he told the crowd before making his way around the room to meet and greet the guests.

Kevin Maughan (38), originally from Dublin 8 and homeless, has been coming to Eric's Party since he was a child.

"It's a good atmosphere. It's great to know people are always there to help.

"With all the things that are happening in society -- unemployment, depression -- at moments like these, they're forgotten," he said.

Grandmother Margaret Fitzpatrick, from Ballymun, was there with her brother and her brother-in-law, John O'Reilly. Both men have been homeless for some time.

"I came with them to see what it's like to be homeless," she explained.

Mr O'Reilly, who is originally from Finglas, said this was his first time at an Eric's Party.

"It's brilliant so far. It's good for a change and is better than walking around the streets until the hostels open."

Meanwhile, Tommy Power from Blanchards-town was another first-timer. He lives alone and said it was nice to get out and meet other people.

"I thought I was the only one, but I was wrong," he said.

Irish Independent