Sr Eileen Fahey to be honoured

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Sister Eileen Fahey is a native of Barnlough, Bansha, Co Tipperary. She has 3 sisters and 1 brother and she attended secondary school in Scoil Chriost Ri in Cahir – The Mercy Convent.

Sr Eileen Fahey joined the Mercy Order in 1957 and subsequently trained as a general nurse and a midwife in Drogheda Hospital in Co Louth. She also qualified as a psychiatric nurse in St John of God, Stillorgan and worked in that capacity in St. Michael’s Hospital in Clonmel for a number of years. It was here that she became aware of the scourge of alcohol addiction, and, even more importantly, the serious lack of facilities and specialised treatment. With the full support of the Mercy Order, she went to the Rutland Centre in Dublin to study their drug addiction treatment regime. On her return to Clonmel she set about establishing a residential alcohol addiction treatment centre. There was strong local opposition to this proposal. Eventually, in the early 1980s, the Mercy Order purchased a building in Cahir, named it Aiseiri (Resurrection or New Beginning) and handed it over to a board of trustees to develop it as a treatment centre. Sister Eileen went to America and studied addiction treatment there and on her return, she opened Aiseiri in 1983.

Eileen worked as the Director of Aiseiri for over 25 years. As director she faced two major challenges, one, she had to recruit and train staff and develop a treatment model, and two, but much more seriously, she had no money to finance the centre. In those early years Eileen and a small group of dedicated volunteers spent a huge amount of their time fund raising. It must be remembered that in those days money was scarce and fund raising for ‘alcoholics’ was not popular. Looking back now it was nothing short of a miracle that Eileen succeeded in her efforts. Succeed she did and Aiseiri soon established itself as a centre of excellence in the treatment of alcohol addiction.

Over the years Aiseiri has continued to grow develop and today there are 4 separate units located in the South East: Cahir, Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford. All 4 operate under the management of one board of directors and a CEO. The philosophy of Aiseiri is based on a few core pillars: warmth, respect, compassion, hope and spirituality – all qualities that Sister Eileen displayed in bucketloads during her pioneering years as Director. Sister Eileen always worked on a holistic basis, she recognised from day one that alcohol addiction didn’t just affect the individual concerned but also caused great trauma and pain for family members. So an integral part of Eileen’s approach was to reach out to families and to involve them in the treatment process.

Soon after Aiseiri’s 25 anniversary Eileen retired as director passing on the baton to a CEO. She retired from her other official activities in 2014. On her retirement she became a facilitator for the Cahir branch of Grow, a self-help support group for people coping with mental health problems. The group meets on a weekly basis in Aiseiri.

Sister Eileen is a very humble and private person and always shies away from the limelight. She goes to great pains to heap praise on her fellow sisters for their extraordinary and generous support over the years, to the wonderful staff she worked with, and to the hundreds of volunteers who helped to make Aiseiri happen, but realistically, without Eileen’s leadership, vision, compassion, courage and determination there would be no Aiseiri. She is nothing less that a living legend and Aiseiri is an amazing and wonderful legacy of her work .

Sr Eileen has devoted years to promoting the work of GROW and was an original founding member (spending six months training in Cork) to set up a group in St Michael’s Hospital Clonmel where she worked at that time (i.e. when GROW first came to Ireland).