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Liam Cunningham - Barnardos

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Barnardos are currently working with over 5,500 children and families who are suffering from terrible hurts caused by poverty, disadvantage, neglect and addiction.

The leading Irish children's charity which provides services to vulnerable children and families in over 42 projects across Ireland is projecting a 20% shortfall in voluntary funds in 2009 with a further substantial gap predicted for 2010

Barnardos have launched an appeal (See press release below) for support to prevent the closure of a number of its services across Ireland a result of a funding shortfall for 2009 and 2010.

Who are the guests?

Debbie O'Shea: Project Co-ordinator in a Barnardos Early Year's Service in Dublin's Blanchardstown.

Liam Cunningham
Irish Actor Liam Cunningham, is an ambassador for the charity Barnarods.

Liam Cunningham Biography.
Dublin-born actor Liam Cunningham was working as an electrician in the mid-eighties when he noticed an ad for acting lessons. Encouraged by his wife Colette, he decided to apply. A month after leaving his 'day job' he won a part in an Irish play and followed that with a tour of the US in another Irish play. Since then, Liam hasn't looked back, and has built up an extremely impressive CV!

Liam was nominated for Best Actor award for his role as Grady in Cracker.
He was also nominated as best leading performer at the inaugural 1999 IFTA's for his role as Mossie in 'Falling for a Dancer.'
He was nominated as Best Actor at the 1999 IFTA's for his role as Sean Cloney in 'A Love Divided.'
He was named as one of the top five actors of the millennium by a poll conducted by the Irish Film and TV Network.
He won Best Actor award at the 16th Annual British and Irish Film Festival, Cherbourgh, France in October 2000 for his performance of Sean Clooney in 'A Love Divided'.

His career has included acting in film, theatre and radio. He has been part of various stage companies such as The Passion Machine, Royal Court Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

His most recent film role was as Mosher in "Breakfast on Pluto" and has played opposite Richard Gere and Sean Connery as Sir Agravaine in "First Knight".
He's starred in plays for BBC radio, including "Ladies Night at Finbar's Hotel".

On television Liam has played Robert West in 'Prime Suspect', Malcolm McKeown in 'The Clinic' and on our screens from January the 20th Liam stars in Hotel Babylon. He also played Tony Golden, the manager with a heart, in 'Showbands'.
Liam also acted 'Hunger'

What is Barnardos?

Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland's leading independent children's charity. They support children whose well-being is under threat, by working with them, their families and communities and by campaigning for the rights of children.

What do they do?

-Local support
Barnardos has 40 centres around the country that provide a number of direct family support services. All of Barnardos services respond to the needs of the individual children, families and communities.
-Central Services
At a national level, they also provide have a number of services that support children and families at different times in their lives - challenging times of bereavement or law proceedings, or a when families need support and information.

Questions for Debbie O Shea:
Debbie, you are a project co-ordinator in a Barnardos Early Year's Service in Dublin, what type of service do Barnardos provides?

Debbie: We deal with children up to pre-school age who are at a disadvantage. This disadvantage can mean a number of things. They might be children who have parents that have an addiction or the children themselves might have emotional difficulties or they might have other language disabilities.

Debbie, can you give an example of some of the case studies that you would have dealt with last year?
There was one girl Sarah, who was three years old when we went to her. We discovered that her mother had a learning difficulty. When we went to Sarah, we also discovered that she was not able to speak. She was just able to grunt and squeak, and this should not have been the case at all for a three year old. She was also very nervous about walking and for a three year old she should have been leaping around our centre.

How is Sarah now?
Well we did a lot of work with her over the last year, and she is not talking in two and three word sentences, this is still not enough, she will be starting to go to school next year.

Sarah also had difficulty playing?
Yes, she didn't have any toys, she has some older siblings and there was an X-Box in the house. We had to teach her how to play with toy and to develop other things like playing.

Is this kind of story common place?
Unfortunately, this is story is not uncommon. And many of the centre's around the country would have similar stories.

You also want to mention another interesting case?
We also had another boy, John, he was three years old, and I remember on one occasion, we (Barnardos) were providing him with fruit, which we do after providing a meal. I remember asking him did he want to eat his banana. He said that he was thinking of keeping it in case he got hungry later. He was a three year old boy who had to stop and think about planning to eat, because he may well go hungry in the evening. He had other eight siblings in his family and it was not uncommon for him to go hungry in the evening

How do they come to Barnardos?
They might come to us through the attention of a public health nurse or through a social worker or they might be identified by other people. We work closely with the HSE and they do send on cases to us.

What kind of daily service do you provide?
We work with the children on a four day week basis. We collect the children in the morning and do a range of activities with them. We also leave them home in the afternoon and make sure that they have a hot meal. We also have a parent's day on a Friday and we meet parents of the children, this is to try and prevent issues to do with isolation and how this might affect parents. In Blanchardstown, the area is dispersed, and a lot of families and single parents have moved into the area recently, very often if they have a disadvantaged background, they can feel isolated.

With the funding shortfall that you expect for this year, how might this impact services?
Well I deal with 20 families, and if one of my posts are cut or removed that I would lose 5 families in the Blanchardstown town area.
This would have a knock on effect on other centre's around the country. It is going to have a big impact really.

Questions for Liam Cunningham:

How did you first get involved with Barnardos?
I only go involved very recently(a few months),but I got involved because I have three kids, aged 16, 12 and 8 and I wanted to help children because I know how lucky I am. I don't believe in the idea that there are 'bad children' or bad kids', a lot of these kids are a victim of circumstance really and there are a lot of very unfortunate kids out there. We don't know how lucky we are really. Even if we have enough money ourselves, things can be difficult, but some of kids have so many problems, and I wanted to really get behind them and help out.

You went to see one project in Tallaght which Barnardos were involved in?
Yes, I had a look at what at a centre in Tallaght and the set up there was that they had family rooms in Tallaght. they provide food and in some cases, it is like they bring up the kids. I can only describe the people working up there as highly honorable, and it will be tragic if funding is going to be reduced, we really should get behind this charity.

You only moved into acting in your late 20's, and during you 20's you worked as an electrician, what do you put your success down to?
I just love the work, I suppose. And if you really like the work, and you like acting then it gets easier. I mean, I worked get to work on films where there is a story to be told and this is great. I have worked on some culturally significant films, like The Wind That Shakes The Barley and also recently Hunger. A lot of these films had great stories, and it is great working on something where there is a story to be told.

What about this film, this is a clip we have with you and Sean Connery?
Yes, in this clip you can see was a moment when I worked with Sean Connery, and this is when he calls be into the frame.. I was a break for me and it is a scene that I remember.. Sean Connery, was a great man to work with, so too was Richard Gere

How do you feel when you are described as a heart throb?
Maybe they are talking about the art of illusion, but it brings a smile to my face when they say that.. it's not something I think about when I take out the bins on a Monday morning, but it brings a smile to my face, I will say.

Is it more difficult to do 'love scenes' as you get older?
Well you could say that we are not as youthful looking as we get older, but then again you could say that we are more 'refined' in what we learn as we get older. I hope I don't out anyone off my dinner by the way!

What are you working on at the moment Liam, anything exciting?
I acted in a film coming out over the next few weeks, called Harry Browne, Michael Caine is also in it so we are all looking forward to that..

Additional information
In 1962, Barnardos began to work with children and families in Ireland, initially in Dublin and the Border Counties. It remained part of the UK organisation until 1989, when Barnardos (Republic of Ireland), an independent Irish organisation, was born.
Barnardos operate over 40 centres in local communities across the country, working with vulnerable children and their families. Barnardos also run a number of national services supporting parents and professionals with an information resource network and counseling services dealing with childhood bereavement, adoption and a Guardian ad Litem service representing children's interests in court proceedings. Barnardos get statutory funding as well as being receiving voluntary funding

Press Release Monday 13 Oct 2009
Barnardos Appeals for Public's Help to Prevent Project Closures
12th October, 2009. Barnardos have today launched a major public appeal for support to prevent the closure of services across Ireland. This appeal comes as a result of a shortfall in funding for 2009 and 2010. The leading Irish children's charity which provides services to vulnerable children and families in over 42 projects across Ireland is projecting a 20% shortfall in voluntary funds in 2009 with a further substantial gap predicted for 2010.

The shortfall in voluntary income is a reflection of the difficult circumstances many donors, both individuals and companies, have found themselves in this year. However, the children's charity has also seen a reduction in statutory funding.
Speaking about the potential consequences of this funding gap, Barnardos Chief Executive Fergus Finlay said, "Our services and projects around the country are right now working with over 5,500 children and families who are suffering from terrible hurts caused by poverty, disadvantage, neglect and addiction. Barnardos works tirelessly to help change children's futures, to create better childhoods and to give those children opportunities for brighter futures. We do not want to stop providing that help for even one of those children and for that we need the public's support."

He continued, "We truly appreciate all the support people have given us to date and we understand the financial difficulties that many families and companies are facing. We are therefore appealing to those who can, to please give. The Celtic Tiger never reached the homes of the children we work with and recent cuts in education, social welfare and increased waiting lists for vital services are weighing ever more heavily on those families who already had so little."
Barnardos is working hard to protect the services they provide to children and families but the uncertainty around funding is a major concern. The funding shortfall could mean that hundreds of children may not be able to access a Barnardos service and those who are attending one may have their services discontinued. The impact of such a closure for the children Barnardos works with would be devastating.

Speaking about the work Barnardos does Barnardos Project Co-ordinator Debbie O'Shea said, "Our focus is on getting children ready for school and giving them a positive experience of education, thus helping them on the road to a successful school career. It is widely recognised that the best way to end the cycle of poverty is through education."

"We also provide a safe space for parents to come and talk about their experiences of being a parent, offering advice if needed. We often find that parents will tell us about problems they are encountering that they may never have told anyone and they allow us the privilege of helping them to start working through these issues," Debbie said.
A Barnardos project worker, Clare spoke today about the impact any closures would have on the children and families she works with, saying, "If we weren't able to run our service the impact on the children and families who come here would be huge. For some families, coming to our service is the main focus of their day. For others, a child may not access appropriate levels of stimulation to develop language, motor skills or social skills. These are key skills that they will need in school, and without them their experience of school will be seriously impacted upon. For many parents, coming to our service is their main source of support and advice and social interaction."

More information on Barnardos' appeal is available from or by calling 1850 216 216