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TV comedian praises Mass for keeping loneliness at bay

Mass can help in the fight against loneliness, the Irish actor and comedian behind Mrs Brown’s Boys has said.

Brendan O’Carroll, best known for his portrayal of matriarch Agnes Brown in the BBC and RTE sitcom, told The Irish Catholic that the parish system in Ireland is a vital source of comfort and support in the battle against loneliness.

“Well, I think the Catholic Church and the parish system in general, particularly in rural areas have been very, very good because to have a central place – like when Mass was really popular, before it went out of fashion – there was a central place that you went to and you could see every Sunday morning,” Mr O’Carroll told The Irish Catholic.

“Often a lot of lonely people were found to have been unwell because they were missing from Mass – they wouldn’t be seen at Mass,” he said.

However, Mr O’Carroll explained that this level of support was much more difficult in city areas.

“Parishes are bigger, it’s not as personal as it was and of course the Catholic Church itself is coming under a lot of pressure so they have to be careful how they schedule visits, how they do things – so maybe we need to rethink it,” he added.

Mr O’Carroll’s comments came as he and his wife and co-star, Jenny Gibney, called on the people of Ireland to ‘Have a Laugh for Loneliness’ in aid of ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home. The campaign encourages people to host social events for family, friends and neighbours, to raise funds to support ALONE’s services.

A major element of ALONE’s support is the charity’s befriending service. This pairs older people, who may be experiencing loneliness or isolation, with trained volunteers who can offer help with practical tasks and most importantly, offer friendship.

As part of the ‘Have a Laugh for Loneliness’ initiative, ALONE is encouraging members of the public to host social events and to have a laugh to raise funds for these crucial services while combating loneliness in their own community. The charity recently published its 2017 Annual Report which cited a 100 per cent increase in the number of older people using ALONE’s services since 2016. In comparison, ALONE’s donations increased by just 15 per cent during this time.

Speaking at the launch, Mr O’Carroll, said: “It’s fantastic to be a part of ALONE’s ‘Have a Laugh for Loneliness’ campaign. It’s awful to think that as many as one in 10 older people experience chronic loneliness. ALONE’s work to combat this is extremely valuable and the difference it makes in the lives of older people is powerful. We’re hoping that by having a laugh for loneliness, the public will not only raise funds for ALONE but help to combat loneliness in their community.”

Seán Moynihan, CEO OF ALONE, said: “The fact is that loneliness can shorten your life. Thousands of older people across the country struggle with loneliness every day. ALONE is delighted to have Brendan and Jenny on board to launch this campaign, which we hope will help us to support more of those people. Receiving a regular call or visit from ALONE offering friendship and support is a simple thing which can make a huge difference to older people. “

He continued: “Our volunteers are invaluable to ALONE’s befriending work and we’re constantly looking to recruit and train more people in order to keep up with the calls we receive. Through the ‘Have a Laugh with Loneliness’ campaign, we hope to raise vital funds for the service which saw our 1,000th volunteer trained this year. With the support of the public, we are working so that no older person is left lonely, without friendship and support.”

For more information on ‘Have a Laugh for Loneliness’ see: www.alone.ie