Mallow man’s dream project sees hostel for homeless veterans open in Cobh

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney cutting the ribbon to open Bru na Farraige, a hostel and veteran support centre in Cobh. Also pictured is Diarmuid Higgins of O.N.E., who originally proposed the idea for the centre, and David Stanton TD.

Last Sunday was a special occasion when the O.N.E. (the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel) opened a hostel for homeless veterans and a veteran support centre in Cobh. The centre was the brainchild of Diarmuid Higgins, a native of Lacknalooha Upper in Mallow, who proposed the idea after hearing of the great work which the O.N.E. was doing with homes in Letterkenny, Dublin, and Athlone. Diarmuid, who lives in Cobh and has 21 years of service in the navy, felt that the old social welfare office in Cobh would be ideal for a hostel and a support centre which would cater for veterans who are struggling to adjust to civilian life after their service.
After four years of hard work and dedication by a small number of volunteers and staff of O.N.E., the project finally came to fruition last Sunday when the centre was officially opened. Many VIPs were present on the occasion, including Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD, Deputy Mayor of Co. Cork, Cllr Cathal Rasmussen, Secretary General Dept of Defence Ms Jacqui McCrum, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt-General Sean Clancy, along with DCOS (Sp) Major General Adrian O’Murchu and FOCNS Commodore Michael Malone. Other guests included members of the Oireachtas, Cork County Council, Defence Forces, other Veterans Organisations, Defence Forces Representative Associations, and the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Speaking about the opening of the centre, Diarmuid said he was “unbelievably excited to see the hard work of a large team pay off, including that of local builder Anthony Stronsoe who stripped the place down to four walls and started from scratch – what an amazing job he has done”.
“It is certainly a dream come true, for me and for these brave people who have struggled with civilian life, who have struggled with PTSD in some cases, or who may be coping with injury,” said Diarmuid, who thanked the Office of Public Works (OPW) for their support. “They loved the idea of a hostel for veterans and a support centre where people who served from Cork could pop in for a cup of tea and a natter, so they said that we could rent the building for two euros a year.” he said.
Prior to the official opening last Sunday, O.N.E. held an inauguration ceremony for the position of national president, where the outgoing president Jim Fay handed over the chain of office to incoming National President Diarmuid Higgins. In his speech, Diarmuid spoke about the project, and he thanked all his branch members and his family for supporting him.
O.N.E. Board Chairperson Colm Campbell said, “It is truly fitting that he [Diarmuid] assumes the office of President of O.N.E. at the opening of our house in Cobh, a house that could not have been developed without his dedication and leadership.”
Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD, who did the honours at the official opening, said it was “a proud day for all members of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann. O.N.E. has made a great difference to the lives of ex-servicemen and women who have had cause to avail of its services.”