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As the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I is marked across the globe, the publication of a new book dealing with homelessness and addiction, reminds us of the constant battles being fought on a daily basis, including on an individual and personal level. The resolution of such conflicts can often be the result of a surprising turn of events.
The Day the Poppy Met the Shamrock by Dezi Jay M is a frank, moving and personal account, reflecting on the problem of homelessness in Ireland today, told from the perspective of someone who has experienced it first hand. The author charts his own journey from homelessness to resettlement: not just a question of physical abode but also the deeper, more searching question of finding a home within oneself.
Dezi Jay M. grew up in Coolock, Dublin. Early experiences of abuse and addiction affected his life, resulting in several periods of homelessness, including following the break-up of his marriage in 2008. The author believes that the vast majority of people in Ireland today are "only a few months, or even a few weeks wages away from being homeless."
When I think about the homeless in Smithfield Square, I often wonder what they might have said to their parents and teachers, when they asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. They probably said, ‘I want to work at computers, or be a plumber, or a rock star.' They certainly never said, ‘I want to be homeless.’
In The Day the Poppy Met the Shamrock, the author vividly recalls his own personal watershed, which occurred on a November day at a Word War I Armistice Day commemoration in the Irish Peace Park in Messines, near Ypres in Belgium.
"It was a very cold day, though far from the conditions in the trenches during the fighting. With God's grace, I held the Irish flag above my head in the cold for one and a half hours, with the poppy on my heart while a Belgian bishop celebrated Mass. Yes, someone was looking after me; my heart was going in the right direction, releasing a long-held bitterness from my soul."
For the author, being able to relate his own troubles to the legacy his country’s turbulent history, gave him an insight that helped to put his experiences in perspective. Since that day, Dezi has embarked on a career in the performing arts, while also achieving a certificate in addiction studies. In December 2010, he was invited to meet President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese, from whom he received a commendation for overcoming homelessness.
I gratefully accepted this honour; yet I know from my thirty years of sobriety, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that such feats as surviving my alcoholism, mental illness, and homelessness, can only be achieved with the support of countless wonderful people, one’s own hard work, and through the grace of God.
The Day the Poppy Met the Shamrock is available to buy online, in print and e-book editions. It is also available in certain bookshops, including Footprints, with branches in Talbot Street, Dublin 1 and George’s Street, Dun Laoghaire. RRP €7.99 plus P&P.