We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

503 clients helped by ALG housing clinic
Edward Gleeson (MLRC chair), Aoife Kelly Desmond (MLRC managing solicitor), Eithne Lynch (ALG), Pat Dennigan (Focus Ireland) and Mike Allen (Focus Ireland) at the report launch

31 May 2023 / ireland Print

503 clients helped by ALG housing clinic

The impact of pro bono law is the topic of a report on housing rights and homelessness launched at the ALG HQ in Dublin 1 yesterday (30 May).

The report on partnership work between Mercy Law Resource Centre,  Focus Ireland, and A& L Goodbody, details work undertaken on a pro bono basis.

A total of 230 AGL lawyers have now trained in housing law since the launch of the pro bono housing clinic, the launch heard.

This has resulted in both personal and professional value, with 503 clients helped over a five-year period.

A total of 287 families were supported through the remote clinic set up at the onset of the pandemic.

Skilled advocacy

The launch heard that judicial reviews have not been used to effect results, but rather reliance on skilled advocacy while public authorities have been held to account in terms of housing clients.

ALG partner Liam Kelly quoted Mahatma Gandhi, saying society doesn’t need a declaration of rights but a declaration of duties.

Young lawyers working pro bono develop skills of collaboration and analysis which have benefited ALG, he added.

“The busiest people are often the best contributors to the pro bono programme, and they have been the better lawyers, and the better human beings as a result of that,” he said.

Mercy Law Resource Centre owes a huge debt to ALG pro bono unit solicitors Eithne Lynch and Amy Martin, the launch heard.

MLRC managing solicitor Aoife Kelly-Desmond said that homelessness cannot be solved by legal action. She compared the statistic of 3,000 homeless when MLRC was set up in 2009, to the current multiples of that figure.

12,259 in homeless accommodation

State figures show that that there were 12,259 people in emergency homeless accommodation, including 3,594 children.

She added that the legislation in relation to homelessness is vague and non-prescriptive, with discretion allowed to local authorities, which can work well when housing supply is good, but is currently a “recipe for disaster”.

“For a number of years we’ve been calling for the minister to issue some regulations under the Housing Act 1988,” she said. 

This legislation is the only statute pertaining to homelessness and has not been amended since 1988, and it was written at a very different time in Ireland, she added.

MLRC has long advocated that more structure needs to be put on legal entitlements, she said, and a review is taking place in Government.

Council housing should allow for more mobility, the launch heard, and the legislation doesn’t allow for client desire to move around from county to county.

Eilis Barry of FLAC said that the report is a good example of how to provide targeted services to some of the most disadvantaged groups.


A move to virtual clinics because of the pandemic allowed the project to have a greater geographical reach, the report states.

A full 80% of those supported through the clinic are based in Dublin, with the remaining 20% spread across several different counties. One-third of referrals are from a minority group.

Client Felicia Nyarkoa came to Ireland from Ghana to do voluntary work as a care assistant in 2019.

She became pregnant in 2021 and was unable to stay in her accommodation after her child was born.

Social housing

After receiving pro bono help, she was given social housing in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, following a stint in homeless emergency accommodation, which Nyarkoa described as “dirty and smelly”.

Her social worker then put her in touch with the Focus Ireland housing charity, which led to her case being taken on by the ALG pro bono unit.

After the birth of her child, Nyarkoa was given ‘Stamp 4’ leave to remain in Ireland, and is currently on housing assistance payment (HAP) for her accommodation.

Nyarkoa is now on the social-housing list in Co Kildare and hopes to be in council accommodation shortly.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland