Tuesday 22 January 2019

Members want to see St Oliver's Conference back in business

Hubert Murphy

A protest was staged outside the St Vincent de Paul shop on the North Road to highlight the ongoing closure of the St Oliver's Conference of the society. A former president of the conference group, Noel Feeney, said the protest was a simple one - staged to highlight their view that the local group - which was named in honour of the County Meath born saint - should be up and running again.

'The St Oliver's Conference was suspended about 18 months ago, and later disbanded, and we want it re-instated,' he stated. 'We also want to know why it was disbanded.' In a statement to the Drogheda Independent, the SVP explained that 'issues arose within the Conference' last year. They say those issues 'did not in any way impact on the work or support SVP provides in the Drogheda area but nevertheless required intervention at Regional level. The Conference was stood down during these interventions which is normal practice and its work undertaken by other local Conferences. The members were invited to join other conferences in the area.

'Following an examination by the North East & Midlands Region and subsequently by National Office, nothing was found to substantiate the allegations. Members of the conference are still involved in SVP. 'At the end of the process, the Region decided not to reconstitute the Conference as the needs of the local area were already being served by other conferences, however the invite to members to join other conferences was reiterated.'

Noel says the St Oliver's Conference was set up about two decades ago and had 12 volunteers. They catered for clients from the likes of the Termonfeckin Road to Yellowbatter, Hardman's Gardens and Greenhills. 'There were hundreds being served,' he remarked. A number of the volunteers were members for many years too. 'We visited hospitals and prisons and did our best for people,' he states.

Other members of the conference were also disappointed to see it go, some of their efforts making a real difference. 'We looked at trying to remove the causes of poverty. People constantly needed help of all descriptions. One person couldn't get the dole and couldn't work, he was destitute,' a volunteer stated. They gave the landlord money to pay the person's rent and managed to contact the authorities to assist them further. 'We knew clients by name, knew what their issues were.'

They say it was a big decision to go public on their feelings in relation to the conference as they don't want to damage the work of the St Vincent de Paul in the area. 'We don't want to harm the society. There are many great people there and the priority is that their work is not impacted.' The volunteers said they tried to do non monetary visits to people, especially older citizens. 'We wanted to be a reach out to them,' they added. A letter has been forwarded to the charity regulator in relation to the issue by some members of the former St Oliver's group.

Drogheda Independent