WATCH: Joan Freeman ‘feels at home’ in Limerick during presidential campaign stop

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Presidential bid: Pieta House founder Joan Freeman was in Limerick on her campaign Picture: Adrian Butler

Presidential bid: Pieta House founder Joan Freeman was in Limerick on her campaign Picture: Adrian Butler

VISITING Limerick feels like “coming home” for presidential election candidate Joan Freeman.

Ms Freeman, who founded the suicide prevention charity Pieta House's first support centre outside Dublin in Mungret, feels the city “likes me”.

“But then I love Limerick too,” she added.

Ms Freeman – who is seeking election to Áras an Uachtaráin later this month – checked in with Limerick Suicide Watch and the Southill Family Resource centre last Thursday as well as walking around the city.

She admitted she was “very moved” by both experiences during her visit to Limerick.

“I heard things today that I had never heard before. I heard the expression ‘fuel poverty’. I never knew there was such an expression. And I thought I had my ear to the ground. I thought I knew communities,” Ms Freeman told the Limerick Leader.

She described Southill as an "amazing community” – but criticised the “discrimination” against people in these areas when it comes to finding work.

“I spoke to one lady, and she told he her son could not even get an unpaid internship because of his address,” the charity founder said.

With just weeks now to go until the country goes to the polls, Ms Freeman said she is “amazed” at what she has seen across the country.

“In Dublin, the government and the rest of us are living in a bubble. We have no idea of the troubles and the challenges facing the different counties across our country.”

The election takes place on Friday, October 26, and Ms Freeman will face incumbent President Michael D Higgins, alongside Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada, and Dragons Den stars Gavin Duffy, Sean Gallagher and Peter Casey.

The latter – nominated by Limerick City and County Council – offered Ms Freeman a five-year loan at seven per cent, after she spoke of difficulties funding her own campaign.

Ms Freeman declined to make any comment on the offer.

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said he is surprised the Pieta House founder had never heard of fuel poverty.

He said: “I would have imagined most people would have heard of it.

“ It is a well-known term. Organisations like Alone working with the elderly constantly refer to it,

St Vincent de Paul would constantly refer to it.”