Emigrants Return to a Safe
Haven in the West
'The Irish Post'
March 4th 2000
A revitalised village in Co Mayo which is the new home of
elderly returned emigrants has become a shining beacon for
care in the community.
Many elderly emigrants have returned from Britain and
America to a new lease of life in the award-winning
purpose-built village of St Brendan's in Mulranny, Co Mayo.
Many more are destined to follow as Safe Home, a non-profit
community-owned programme which built and administers the
village, help to provide more homes throughout the
Eventually, Safe Home hopes to encompass all emigrants
who wish to return but for now they are giving priority to
older or disabled people.
St Brendan's Village beat 2,000 entrants to win the AIB
Better Ireland National Award as an example of ideal care of
older people in the community.
St Brendan's has also been acknowledged as a model for
the future care of older and disabled people by the Irish
Government which used it as an exemplar at the European
Union policymakers's conference in Dublin last year.
Dr Jerry Cowley, chairman of the Safe Home Programme,
which is based on the mutually supportive extended family,
believes that the St Brendan's model could equally be
applied to help revitalise and regenerate inner city areas
at home and abroad.
Dr Cowley who is also a director of the Irish Council for
Social Housing, the umbrella body for all voluntary social
housing initiatives in Ireland, and chariman of its special
needs committee, said: "We have reversed emigration by
bringing back 12 older Irish people from Britain. All have
got a new lease of life on returning." He added that Safe
Home had saved Mulranny which was ravaged by emigration due
to lack of jobs.
"The Safe Home Programme is already taking practical
steps to ensure that all those of our older citizens who
wish to return home again will have their wish fulfilled.
All those who have been assisted through the programme have
returned to high quality social housing in the bosom of the
The programme has been working in association with the
Safe Start Foundation in London and has established links
with the Irish Welfare and Information Centre in Birmingham,
the Federation of Irish Societies and other Irish community
groups in Britain.
Dr Cowley said they are currently carrying out an audit
of existing and potential accommodation throughout
"We are encouraging our affiliates to cater not alone for
local housing needs but also to consider Irish people
abroad, particularly our older citizens, when filling
vacancies and in planning accommodation needs." Dr Cowley
He stressed that they had received many enquiries and are
actively trying to process all the applications.
"We hope that people will understand that we have limited
accommodation but we are hopeful that, in time, we will get
around to everyone in need," he said. "Currently our
priorities are older and disabled people but, in time, we
hope to be able to address all needs.
"Under the National Plan, unprecedented major investment
is being made available for social housing so we are hoping
that many more vacancies will arise in the future.
"There are greenfield sites already available to us
which, when developed over the next year, will help both
local housing needs and repatriation of some more of our
Irish people abroad."
He appealed to British-based public representatives to
enlist the support of the Government and other authorities
in helping to repatriate those who need to return to
"I would appreciate hearing from any of them interested
in following this up," he said. "There is already tremendous
co-operation forthcoming from the Federation of Irish
Societies and British-based Irish welfare groups."