Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) is a nonprofit organisation based in Dublin, Ireland that provides services for people who are homeless and those struggling with addiction. It was founded by Tony Geoghegan and Fr. Sean Cassin in 1989. MQI provides services in Dublin, on the East Coast, in the Midlands and in Cavan and Monaghan.
Vision, Mission and Values
Our Vision for Change
An inclusive society that supports the integration and well-being of all
We believe in a just society where no-one has to face homelessness or addiction alone, and where everyone has the support they need to reduce the harm caused by homelessness and addiction and to build a better life; an inclusive society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
We work as a collaborative community to reduce the harm caused by addiction and homelessness.
Our mission is to offer people dealing with homelessness and addiction in Ireland, accessible, high quality and effective services, which meet their complex needs in a non-judgemental and compassionate way.
- Passion: We are committed to supporting and empowering all people who use our services.
- Openness: We believe in each person’s unique potential and welcome all regardless of circumstances.
- Excellence: We continue to develop our service to deliver the highest standards
- Collaboration: We recognize that we are stronger when we work collectively; we are committed to developing partnerships to deliver our vision.
- Adaptability: An openness to change allows us to find solutions to emerging challenges.
- Integrity: We act with personal responsibility; we treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Merchants Quay Ireland is based on the Franciscan ethos, with the Franciscans living and working on the south side of Dublin’s River Liffey since 1232. In 1348, the Black Death swept through Dublin and among the thousands who died were twenty-four Franciscans. During the Reformation in 1540, the Friary on Francis Street, at the site of the present church of St. Nicholas of Myra, was confiscated and the community dispersed. In the following century, the Friars worked secretly in the Cook Street area. At that time, they said Mass in the Adam and Eve Tavern, hence the name of the present day Church. Following Catholic Emancipation, the Friars built a new church at Merchant’s Quay, and the foundation stone was laid in 1834.
For over a century the main work of the Friars was the church services. Until the 1960s, Merchants Quay was one of the most popular and well-attended churches in Dublin City. The 1960s saw profound changes in Ireland and in the Church, as people began to move out of the city centre, tenements were torn down and communities dispersed to new estates in the suburbs. Following the Second Vatican Council, the Church began to take a greater interest in matters of social justice. The Franciscans could no longer ignore the poverty and the social problems on their own doorstep and as a result, some of the Friars became involved in justice activities. The first Simon Community was set up on the Friar’s property on Winetavern Street in 1969. St Francis Food Centre for the poor and homeless, also knows as the Tea Rooms, was opened by the Friars the same year.
Brother Salvador Kenny, the tailor who made the friary habits, and sacristan Brother Sebastian Tighe began serving tea and sandwiches to homeless men who took refuge in the church during the day.
Drugs invade Dublin
By the early 1980s, the European drugs explosion hit Ireland. Tony Geoghegan recalls, “There would have been a huge increase in heroin use, and there’d always been a kind of informal support network around the friary, a lot of drug users who were HIV positive were coming in for help because they were excluded from treatment.” In 1989, the friars gave Fr. Sean Cassin two rooms at the front of the friary to set up a counselling and drop-in centre. It was then that the Merchants Quay Project was born and demand was instant.
Merchants Quay Project
In 1991, Merchants Quay project was granted charitable status, offering care and treatment to drug users and their families, and opening the country’s first NGO needle exchange. Prior to this point, all help had been voluntary, and there was no state funding, with Geoghegan stating that it was time to “formalise our response.”
Growth and change
By the mid-1990s Merchants Quay service included a formal sixteen-week drug-free rehabilitation programme in High Park, day programmes and counselling at the converted Friday garage on Winetavern Street, and the meals service still run on Cook Street by Brother Sebastian. Brother Philip, a member of the Franciscans, stated “In a sense, we’ve been doing it for 800 years – no one would ever be turned away, [but] I [started to] see the young people waiting inside for breakfast, looking so desperate. The whole scene had changed. It needed professional people.”
In 2001, the homeless and drugs services operating at Merchants Quay were brought together under one management structure and became Merchants Quay Ireland. In 2012, the charity moved into the newly refurbished Riverbank Open Access Centre on Merchants Quay, allowing all crisis services to exist under one roof, and ensuring the space necessary to meet increasing demand.
MQI provides a number of services including low threshold day services services such as food, showers, healthcare, and harm reduction, as well as detox and rehabilitation and aftercare programmes, and prison-based addiction counselling.
Open Access Services
MQI offers open access services free of charge to those who require them. These services include: hot showers; free food all day; advice and information on what services are available and how best to access these services; healthcare service including a doctor, nurse, dentist, counsellor, and mental health team; harm reduction; case management services.
Dedicated Young Person’s Support Worker for young people aged 18 – 25.Our Young Person’s Support Worker supports younger clients who may need help with accommodation, addiction issues and access to education and benefits.
Detox, Rehabilitation and Aftercare
MQI’s drug-free treatments services provide easily accessible treatment for people who wish to become drug-free. Service users can be self-referred or may be referred from a wide variety of agencies across the country. MQI offers addiction recovery options in Dublin at High Park Residential Rehabilitation Service in Drumcondra, and in Carlow at St. Francis Farm Detox and Rehabilitation Centre. Aftercare options are also available at MQI.
MQI provides addiction counselling in twelve of Ireland’s prisons.