Online Commemoration of 17 October World End Poverty Day

All Together in Dignity (ATD) Ireland in conjunction with the Irish 17 October Committee hosted an online commemoration of the United Nations International Eradication of Poverty Day, Saturday, 17 October. Over 60 people participated in the hour-long event. Our webinar can be viewed here:

Unfortunately, the public health restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the commemoration this year could not be held in its customary location at the Human Rights and Poverty Stone, Custom House Quay, Dublin.

Maureen O’Sullivan, formerly a Teachta Dála (parliamentarian) for 11 years representing the Dublin Central Constituency, was Master of Ceremonies for the online event. Maureen showed great empathy and understanding of the significance of the event, welcomed the participants, and made all of the speakers feel at ease. She spoke knowledgeably and eloquently to the many issues that arose during the webinar.

Maureen O’Sullivan, Master of Ceremonies

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, in the opening address, spoke of the inter-connectedness of social justice and environmental justice, reflecting the global theme of this year’s World End Poverty Day: Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all.

Hazel Chu, Lord Mayor of Dublin

Following this, Belinda Nugent, the Irish Representative on the International 17 October Committee, spoke of the international dimension of the World Day, the role of the Committee in promoting observance of the World Day, and the importance of the global theme in the context of Covid-19, while also presenting examples around the world where commemorations for the 17 October were taking place.

Belinda Nugent, International 17 October Committee

There then followed the reading of the Message of the Human Rights and Poverty Stone, and of the over 50 other commemorative stones around the world, as first pronounced in 1987 at the Plaza of Human Rights in Paris by Joseph Wresinski, the Initiator of the 17 October World Day before an audience of 100,000 people.

Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.

The message was read in three languages: in Irish (by Martin Byrne), in French (by Juliette Pechenart) and in English (by Paul Uzell).

Human Rights and Poverty Stone, Custom House Quay, Dublin, Ireland

Once again this year, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, wrote a 17 October Message for the online gathering, which was read by Brian O’Toole of the Irish 17 October Committee. This was complemented by the launch that day of a public message and video by the President which can be viewed here:

Music has always held a special place in the annual commemoration of the World End Poverty Day in Dublin. We were all moved by the beautiful song, ‘Motherland’ which was next performed by Aine and Cathal Holland.

Aine and Cathal Holland singing ‘Motherland’

We then came to the heart of the online commemoration, the personal testimonies of people with first-hand experience of the effects of poverty and exclusion on their lives.

Folashade from the Dominican Justice Project spoke bravely of the impact the Direct Provision system has had on her and her children, and of her dreams and hopes for a better future for her family.

It’s hard for me to talk about my hopes and dreams for my family because this system of Direct Provision we are living in stops you from looking forward to the future. Me and my family can’t wait for the day when we will be able to move out of the direct provision system to start a new life for ourselves.

Irene of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland shared accounts of the daily struggles of thousands of undocumented people in Ireland, and how they reach out to support one another in their efforts to find decent work and to achieve official registration.

While many of our members are frontline and essential workers like carers, childminders, retail, delivery drivers and cleaners, who worked continuously throughout the pandemic lockdown, they nonetheless had to seek help in accessing basic living needs like food and financial support.

Finally, Mary Brigid of Pavee Point Travellers Centre, explained the rich culture and traditions of the Traveller ethnic group in Ireland and the challenges they as a community continue to face in relation to equity in work, education, housing and health.

We saw during Covid that things can change.  We saw that we can make progress.  What we need now is social justice – equality of outcomes in health, education, accommodation and employment.  And a just recovery from Covid.  

The webinar next highlighted the many commemorative events for the World End Poverty Day being held around Ireland, thanks to the Public Awareness Funding 2020 scheme of the Social Inclusion Division of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Ciara Margolis of ATD Ireland presented a summary of the 17 diverse projects funded this year under the scheme. The Irish 17 October Committee published the National 17 October 2020 Programme booklet featuring these projects, which can be viewed here:

National 17 October 2020 Programme Booklet

In a Common Gesture, the webinar participants were invited to send a message to someone they knew sharing the news of their involvement in the webinar to mark the World Day, or simply to reach out to someone near to them with a hug or a smile.

The commemoration event then concluded with closing remarks from the Master of Ceremonies and the launch of a new film by ATD Ireland, ’17 Voices, 1 Message: Stop Poverty! #17October’ in which 17 people, those with lived experience of poverty and those who support them, speak about what poverty means for them in the context of the 17 October World Day. The film can be viewed here:

On behalf of the Irish 17 October Committee, we express our sincere gratitude to all the participants in our commemoration webinar, and in particular to those who shared their personal testimonies with such dignity and courage, and to everyone who helped make this year’s observance of the World End Poverty Day, 17 October 2020, possible.

#EndPoverty #LeaveNoOneBehind #17octIRL