Sr Consilio Fitzgerald, founder of Cuan Mhuire, which provides addiction treatment services and residential rehabilitation to 3,000 people a year was presented with the Fifth Oireachtas Human Dignity Award at a ceremony in Leinster House on Thursday last, December 5.
The Human Life, Human Rights and Human Dignity Award is presented annually by the Oireachtas Human Dignity Group to a person or group whose commitment to the promotion of human dignity has been exemplary.
Presenting the Award, Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher said that “belief in the inherent dignity of each person is what drives Sr Consilio’s work”, and that this “has had a transformative effect on the 100,000 people, and counting, who have benefited from how Cuan Mhuire has put this ethos into practice.”
Sr Consilio, a Mercy Sister, began Cuan Mhuire over 50 years ago in a room in the Convent of Mercy, Athy, in 1966. A trained nurse and midwife, she had been moved by the plight of the ‘men of the road’ she encountered during her work as a nurse. Today, Cuan Mhuire has five treatment centres, including a women-only facility in Cork, and seven transition facilities throughout the country.
Paying tribute to Sr Consilio and her team, Senator Rónán Mullen of the Oireachtas Human Dignity Group noted that this was just the latest in a long series of awards received by the Mercy Sister and her team.
“These awards are all trying to say the same thing, which is, ‘We greatly value you for what you’ve done for us. And we want you to keep going because your work is more important than ever.’
“As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle rightly points, out, addiction is both a consequence and a cause of suffering. And not just of suffering but of injustice at individual, family and community level. Our society is at risk as never before from the prevalence of addiction and its links to unhappiness, suicides, pressure on the health service and criminality,” according to Senator Mullen.
Acknowledging the award, Sr Consilio noted that people at every level of society were struggling with addiction.
“We will keep going. The challenges are great. Demand for our service far exceeds our capacity to help people. But we trust in the Lord and in the great people who support our work every day,” she said.
As well as the presentation in Leinster House, Sr Consilio’s Human Dignity Award will be marked by a celebratory fundraiser in support of the new centre. Previous recipients of the Human Dignity Award were Barney Curley, founder of Direct Aid For Africa; Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals; Gina Heraty of Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in Haiti; and Bro. Kevin Crowley and the Capuchin Day Centre.