Senior Project Worker Typical Day

1. What do you do on a typical day (Karen McDonagh: Senior Project Worker)

My day is all about people. My role involves ensuring that all of our participants eventually step off our programme into further education or employment. I sit down with each individual to discuss their future options. Together we look at life skills, learning opportunities, work experience so they can “try it on for size”, employment training and future careers. I then liaise with educational facilities, our corporate partners, various community and business organisations to build positive relationships and engage their support in creating work placement and job opportunities for our participants.

2. What do you get out of it
For me it’s all about intrinsic reward. I want to add value and make a difference. If I can support someone in making positive change in their lives, then I feel that I have achieved something. I also love the variety of the role and that no two days are the same.

3. What does your job normally entail
One to one meetings with participants discussing their future. Coaching them so that they understand what it is that they want to achieve and then I help them to develop a personal development plan with clear goals and objectives. Sometimes it is about listening and being there when someone is struggling. Following up on job leads, work experience opportunities, learning opportunities etc. Networking in the community and with other community and business organisations, looking for work placements, career mentors and job opportunities. Supporting the participants during work placements. Providing advocacy for those who need support. Participating in group activities. Researching learning opportunities. Facilitating group work and workshops. My role is about providing our participants with the support, the tools and the opportunities that they need in order to achieve their goals.

4. What’s your favourite memory/experience working in MT.
The sense of community. Meeting the families, ex participants dropping by and doing well, watching children grow up, watching people succeed in achieving their goals. I particularly enjoyed the summer outings to Ballinascorney with the group and their families.

What Do I Do on a Typical Day (Grainne Jennings: Director)

For an organisation founded over thirty years ago there have been many changes but also constants that are embedded into the culture of our daily routine. Our founding member SrCaoimhin clearly understood the value of bringing people together around the table as a means of creating a sense of belonging and community. As such each day begins and ends with a coming together around the table to share foodand lots of laughter to sustain us through the day.
The ethos of MT has always been on the building of relationships and community from within. In order for that to happen it requires ongoing engagement and giving time at individual and group level every day. For me no day is ever the same as the needs of the group and organisation shift and change. My time is occupied with following up with counselling support, crisis intervention, involvement in project based learning initiatives, report writing, responding to a funders requests, networking at local level, visitingprison to follow up on a referral, attending court, meeting with Board members. All of the above requires me to think in very different ways and focus on the issue to hand.
As expectation shift and change requiring charities to have expertise in law, finance, governance, research it becomes a constant juggling act of ensuring that group needs are met and expectations of funder are adhered to.
What Do I get Out of It
Challenge of dealing with such a wide range of issues, challenge for myself in constantly learning and adapting to new situations as research develops and new working methodologies give us insight into progressing our work.
I am deeply conscious that as expectations of charities shift towards higher levels of accountability, and administrative tasks we are in danger of forgetting about why we are here in the first place and that is to work with people.
This is coupled with having to compete for limited resources to ensure that we can provide a high quality, relevant programme. I see it that it is my responsibility to go out there a shout with a very loud voice on behalf of our community to ensure that the wider community and society recognise the value of what and how we do it in Matt Talbot

What Does Your Job Normally Entail?

As Director, I work closely with the Board and Senior management team to ensure that our programme is relevant and meeting the evolving needs of a diverse group of people. My role spans from direct engagement with group members, support to our outreach, raising awareness of the needs of group members with funders and corporate partners and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is adequately in place to support the continuation of our community into the future

What’s My Favourite Memory/ Experience working in MT

There are so many memories that are completely stand Out for me so this is very hard to answer.
Being in a position to watch and be part of the lives of so many families that came to join us in Ballinascorney for the summer residential programme over many years is definitely something that fills me with joy. Without giving too much away in terms of my length of tenure with Matt Talbot, I have had the privilege of knowing children that in turn brought their children to the summer programme!!
We were able to create a magical experience there that included nights around the camp fire telling stories and singing while drinking our hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows; midnight walks into the forest and canoeing expeditions on the Slaney river; the constant washing and sorting of clothes into everyone’s “piles “and up early to make the breakfast each day. Each year when the children arrived I would mark off their height on a wall so that they could see how much they had grown from one year to the next. In many ways it became a home from home for so many people in the Ballyfermot area.

Catherine Byrne visits the Matt Talbot

We recently welcomed Catherine Byrne T.D. to our centre to meet our group and learn about the work we do in the local community. Catherine Byrne is Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy.

We gave her a tour around our centre and the workshop onsite that produces beautifully made copper engravings. Afterwards she met with our group members and listened to some of their stories. Afterwards she had tea and cake with the group before returning to the Dáil for a busy day.

We were delighted to have such an important visitor to our centre and really enjoyed showing her around!

If you would like to get some more information on the work we do please feel free to get in touch with Claire on (01) 626 4899 or at

One real-life ‘good nun’ deserves to be remembered

The ‘cruel nun’ stereotype has become a stock figure in contemporary narratives and a real stinker appears in Marie Hargreaves’ recently published memoir The Convent.

This is one Sister Isobel O’Brien, who beat young children with wooden coat hangers, pulled their hair, pinched them viciously and, in a special humiliation, abolished their Christian names, telling them “you have no family”.

Marie Hargreaves was born in Oldham, Lancashire, to an Irish mother who went on to have 10 children. Her mother, though loving, was mentally unstable, and Marie and her brother were committed to an orphanage at Our Lady’s Convent at Billinge, in Merseyside. Marie was only six, and was subjected to a reign of terror by Sister Isobel.

Irish Times article – Coverage of the fire damage to the Matt Talbot Community Trust centre in Ballyfermot

A day after the Matt Talbot Community Trust’s IT system and website crashed, director Gráinne Jennings is getting the place back up and running.

Upstairs in the Ballyfermot centre’s makeshift office, she is surrounded by a jumble of hard drives, folders and mounds of paper that have yet to find a permanent home. The technology glitch is the latest in a series of setbacks for the trust, which runs training and support programmes for people who have found themselves outside of the education system.

Late last year, the centre’s back building was set ablaze – the origin of the fire is unknown – gutting the kitchen, workshop and computer space.

“We are really restricted in what we can offer at the moment,” says Jennings, who must now hotdesk around the building. “The fire was devastating, as we have just the one building to work in now.”

The charred remains of the building have been untouched since the incident, but the trust is pinning its hopes on an upcoming fundraiser, featuring singer and star of the movie Wild Rose and the acclaimed TV drama Chernobyl, Jessie Buckley. Buckley has been a “silent supporter” of the trust for many years, says Jennings.

“When she heard about the fire she decided she would step up to do all she could to help. We can’t thank her enough,” Jennings says.

Despite the chaotic circumstances, the centre exudes the warmth of a friendly relative’s home. Programme participants, some of whom are former drug addicts or ex-offenders, pause what they are doing to smile and say hello, while cups of tea are offered with the persistence of a doting grandmother.

Food has a therapeutic purpose at the centre, says Jennings. Before it was burned out, the kitchen used to welcome former participants and community members who would wander in unannounced to eat with those currently on the programme.

The bunker-like building in the west Dublin suburb was “never fit for purpose anyway”, says Jennings. The fire, while financially devastating, allows them to “reimagine what’s on offer here”, she adds.

“All of a sudden we can start to dream in a different way in terms of how the centre can work. It really is a great opportunity for us to reorganise the space to deliver the programme in a complimentary way.”

Positivity and persistence against all odds are key principles the centre teaches its participants, says Jennings. A reimagining of the space could bring about Jennings’s dream of an “edible community”, which would allow participants and community members to bond over the food they grow together.

“It will give the people coming to us a wider purpose and it will also give the community a better understanding of the people we work with.”

Cooking is one of the “soft skills” participants learn as part of the centre’s Future Options programme.

“We would have guys coming to us who have been in prison for 18 years. This is their first time out of the prison system, so these skills are fundamental.”

The programme aims to build confidence in participants, allowing them to explore different interests and routes into mainstream life. As well as cooking, those enrolled take workplace tours and placements, while also identifying personal barriers to employment or further education.

Addicted to drugs since he was a teenager, former programme participant John Farrell believes the Matt Talbot centre is far superior to any of the other community programmes he went through.

“At any other project, they care about you while you’re there but you’re a number. The more numbers they have the larger piece of pie they get for funding,” he says. “Here they let me do me and slowly their actions broke it down for me. They actually cared about me, and that made a massive difference,” he adds.

Farrell now gives talks about addiction recovery at homeless hostels and in drug programmes. After completing a start your own business course, he has also set up a small enterprise, carving family crests and Celtic scenes into copper in a small office at the centre. He sells his engravings on Facebook and through word of mouth. He also teaches copperwork to the programme’s participants.

“Here they gave me the opportunities to do work I was passionate about. If I told Gráinne I wanted to be an astronaut or a six-foot-tall model, she would never refuse me. If she sees you are willing to work for it she will bend over backwards for you,” he says.

“That is what I love about here. The belief they have in people no matter how broken they are. And with the right support and help, they can be fixed and go on to help others,” Farrell adds.

The trust is asking the public to help them rebuild the centre by buying tickets to see Jessie Buckley and others perform at Vicar Street, Dublin on Wednesday, September 25th. Tickets €35 through Ticketmaster.

Full line-up for The Matt Talbot Community Trust at Vicar St announced

Previously, it was announced that Jessie Buckley and special guests will perform at a special night for The Matt Talbot Community Trust. Now, these special guests have finally been revealed. Today, Other Voices and Aiken Promotions unveiled the complete line-up for the event at Vicar St.

Jessie Buckley and band will be joined by Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, folk rock band Scullion, spoken word artist Natalya O’Flaherty as well as actors John Connors (Love/Hate), Emmet Kirwan (Dublin Oldschool, Heartbreak) and Alex Murphy (The Young Offenders).

The special night for The Matt Talbot Community Trust will take place on September 25 at Vicar St. Tickets (priced €35 inclusive of booking fee) are available now from Ticketmaster.

The Matt Talbot Trust is a “Community within a community” whose home has been in Ballyfermot since 1986. It was founded by Sr Caoimhin Ni Uallachain from her home in Chapelizod.

The centre runs education and support programmes for people who for many reasons have found themselves outside the education system. They promote stability and structure to those in the community who have become marginalised. After a recent fire on the premises every effort is being made to rebuild and restore all services.

Tributes to Sr. Caoimhin, the late founder of the Matt Talbot Community Trust

TRIBUTES have poured in for a Dominican Sister who was instrumental in mediating during the Mountjoy Prison riot of 1997.

Sr Caoimhín Ní Uallacháin, who passed away on Saturday, March 3, founded Ballyfermot support centre Candle Community Trust in 1976, and Matt Talbot Trust in 1989

Working in Ballyfermot and Chapelizod from 1971 to 2014, she fought for government funds to support those most at risk, and visited local prisoners to provide them with spiritual and practical assistance.

At one stage, Sr Caoimhín was visiting over 80 prisoners on a regular basis, in Mountjoy Prison.

Speaking to the Dominican Sisters for a parish newsletter in 2014, she recalled a “community from Ballyfermot in Mountjoy” at the time, when she received a phone call from the then prison governor John Lonergan, to intervene in a serious incident.

Prison officers had been taken captive by a group of inmates, armed with a knife and a syringe.

Sr Caoimhín was the only person the inmates wanted to speak to, and she ended up staying for three days until the dispute was resolved.

“It was a huge problem at the time, with gangs on the roof of the prison,” said Sr Bríd Roe, Dominican Sisters.

“She always said violence wouldn’t be used against ‘her boys’ and managed to get them off the roof – succeeding where others couldn’t.

“They admired her. She wasn’t against them and was able to stand between big bodies and her boys, whom she always talked about.

“When some got out of prison, she would provide them assistance with social welfare, accommodation, and other needs. This was her life’s work. Nothing would change that. She never gave up on them.”


Sr Caoimhín’s started to support boys with “behavioural problems nobody else felt they could teach” when she was a teacher in the Dominican Secondary School.

This led to her creating the Candle Community Trust in 1976 – a refuge for boys from troubled backgrounds.

St Dominic’s College, Ballyfermot, posted a statement offering “sincere sympathy on the death of our former staff member Sr Caoimhín Ní Uallacháin OP.

“Sr Caoimhín founded the Candle Community Trust originally for young lads who had nowhere to go, and which today, is an established centre, providing a space for both girls and boys to grow and develop physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“She later went on to establish the Matt Talbot Community Trust, and targeted government departments for vital funds to support her initiatives including raising money for a bus which would transport children and their families to Ballinascorney, in the hills above Tallaght.”

Matt Talbot Trust said: “Her work was pioneering in its time, establishing the first FAS Community Employment scheme which was educational and support driven. Her work in the prisons and community transformed many lives in the Ballyfermot area and beyond.

“Her legacy lives on each day in Matt Talbot and remains the basis on which our programme continue to run.”

Hundreds of past pupils, families and ex-prisoners that she helped over the years, posted tributes online, praising a “selfless woman” who “gave her life to Ballyfermot.”

“A number of people from Candle and Matt Talbot were at a reposing on Monday, and some of the boys, now old men, spoke very highly of her,” said Sr Roe.

A message on RIP read: “Sr Caoimhín Ní Uallacháin OP, Dominican Convent, St Mary’s, Cabra, peacefully in the care of the staff at Santa Sabina House. Deeply regretted by her loving brother, Fr Maelisa Ó Huallacháin, her niece Anna, nephews Gearóid and Seamus. Deeply regretted also by her Dominican Sisters, relatives, friends and members of Matt Talbot Trust and Candle Community Trust. Rest in Peace.”