At first sight, ‘Law’ and ‘Mercy’ appear to have little to do with each other. Mercy Law Resource Centre was born out of a desire to bring together these two differing worlds in the hope that, as law becomes ever more dominant and influential in our society, it would be illuminated and resourced by the values of compassion and justice for all, including the poor.
An opportunity to do just this arose when a lawyer, Michele O’Kelly, joined the Sisters of Mercy. With the encouragement of the Mercy Leadership Team, first under Sr. Helena O’Donoghue and then under Sr. Peggy Collins, the idea was conceived, not only of using law to advocate on behalf of those who are most marginalised and in need, but also of ‘doing law’ differently i.e. in a way that was genuinely accessible and of real help to the lives of those on the margins of society.
In preparation for this goal, consultations were held in with a number of interest groups in order to determine where the greatest need was for the type of service the Sisters of Mercy were seeking to provide and how it would best be provided. From these consultations, it emerged that the group most in need were people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; which included those struggling with issues linked to homelessness such as addiction, mental illness, leaving prison and relationship breakdown. With financial support from the Sisters of Mercy, a Law Centre was set up to provide legal services to this group. Incorporation as a company took place in May 2009 and charitable status was granted in June 2009.
From the outset, advice clinics were provided in homeless hostels (initially Crosscare, Charlemont Street and St. Vincent De Paul Hostel, Back Lane) and close links were developed with organisations working with those who are homeless. In this way, MLRC make the service accessible and of real help to the people it serves. A befriending service was also set up whereby volunteers could befriend and accompany clients of the Centre, through their journey through the legal system.
MLRC provides five key services:
- Free legal advice clinics in hostels for people who are homeless and in centres that are easily accessible for people facing homelessness
- Legal representation
- Legal support and training for organisations working in the field of homelessness
- Policy work to advocate changes to the laws, policies and attitudes that are particularly harsh for people facing homelessness, and on the margins of our society
- Befriending service for clients who present with specific vulnerabilities and are in need of support
MLRC is totally dependent on fundraising and does not receive any public grants or state monies. The majority of our costs are covered by funding from the Sisters of Mercy and the remainder is made up of various donations from corporate and individuals.
We also have a number of pro bono barristers who support us. Mason Hayes and Curran and the Law Department, Trinity College Dublin provide us with interns.
Mercy Law Centre
25 Cork Street