The Stars Are Our Only Warmth

The Stars Are Our Only Warmth

Written by Alice Leahy, With Catherine Cleary

The Stars Are Our Only Warmth tells powerful truths about Irish life and the people who taught Alice what it is to be alive in this world.

Hardback: €19.99
Hardback: 368 pages
Size:226x155 mm
ISBN: 9781788490252

E-Book (ePub): €9.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781788490719

In the 1970s Alice Leahy left nursing to work and live in a Dublin homeless shelter. This is the story of her life and life choices, from an empowering childhood, with free run of a big house estate in Tipperary to her invaluable work with some of Ireland’s most marginalised people, at The Alice Leahy Trust, in Dublin.

Alice has always been an important voice in the debate around homelessness in Ireland. An insider with an outsider’s eye, this is the memoir of an untypical life from a radical humanitarian who has always believed that anything is possible.

The Stars Are Our Only Warmth tells powerful truths about Irish life and the people who taught Alice what it is to be alive in this world.

Alice Leahy

Alice Leahy is Director of Services of the Alice Leahy Trust. She was Co-Founder & Director of TRUST from 1975 – December 2015. The Alice Leahy Trust remains a non-judgemental, befriending, social and health service for people who are homeless.

Alice produced with two others “The Homeless Experience” a training module she co-facilitated for voluntary/community and statutory groups in Dublin. Alice is also an honorary member of Rotary Club Dublin and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship from The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Alice – a former nurse / midwife – with hospital consultants set up the first Intensive Care Unit of its type in Ireland at the request of the Medical Board at the then Royal City of Dublin Hospital in Baggot Street.

Alice is a former human Rights Commissioner, and former chairperson of the Sentence Review Group for prisoners, a contributor to public policy, writer, commentator and lecturer. Currently nominated for an international human rights award.

Catherine Cleary

CATHERINE CLEARY is a journalist, author and broadcaster. She began her career as a reporter with The Irish Times in 1994 and became security correspondent of The Sunday Tribune. She met Alice Leahy in the 1990s while reporting on social issues around crime and poverty. Catherine’s publications include: Life Sentence, Murder Victims and their Families (2004) and A Month of Somedays, How One Woman made the most of Now (2012). She co-wrote Counter Culture, The Sheridans’ Guide to Cheese in 2015. She also co-wrote and presented the RTÉ radio series History on a Plate with historian Juliana Adelman. She has been writing a weekly restaurant review
in The Irish Times for the past seven years.

I was very moved by her memoir, which I read cover to cover…  you dealt with all the people who fell through the cracks … very inspirational

Newstalk Ivan Yates

This inspiring chronicle of a lifetime dedicated to alleviating the suffering of those unfortunate enough to be homeless is humbling in its affirmation of humanity and gritty compassion. It tells us how despite the bureaucratic red tape and the impossibility of systems to show individuals the unique recognition and validation we all need to heal and get well; some special, singular individuals can and do make a difference, often the difference between life and death, by taking the time and having the courage to make someone feel cared for and valued, despite all of the shame and sigma they carry and are subjected to; they can eventually be helped to feel worthy of care and  eventually seek help and then just maybe to have some care towards themselves. In a world where individuals are judged not on their own unique personalities and merits, but rather on preconceptions regarding the group they belong to, Alice Leahy lights a beacon of hope, and inspiration. With no trace of posturing she takes us on the warm, inspiring journey of a girl born and raised in Fethard, County Tipperary, and allowed to grow and develop under the loving, practical, empowering wing of her parents, and strong, inspiring female role models … The value of this book is that it demonstrates that in the face of ever increasing dehumanising forces like: globalisation, technological change, inter and intra national economic inequality, nationalism, and religious extremism; individuals can and do make a stand in choosing to recognise and work with, the dignity of the individual and as Alice Leahy has done, turn away from social mainstream careers, roles and preconceptions, to foster and fan that fragile flame of hope, self-belief and creativity we are all entitled to. Also, when all else has failed to simply bear witness to the passing of a human life and to ensure that they are not alone on their last journey.

John Connolly, UKCP reg Psychotherapist, Lead Counsellor, Westminster Homeless Health Service, Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Leahy, with the assistance of journalist Catherine Cleary, wrote a memoir that serves as both a slice of social history and a road map to understanding today’s inability to address the housing emergency. What comes across in the pages of The Stars Are Our Only Warmth is how Leahy managed to combine a hard-headed pragmatism with a humanity devoid of any judgement … The Stars Are Our Only Warmth is a cracking read that also injects a little faith in humanity at a time when it’s sorely needed'

Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner

a wonderful, warm memoir … a wonderful social history … a hard read but it is also a wonderful read … this book will deepen our understanding of what’s needed and what more we can do

Kilternan Klips

This is the story of Alice Leahy, and a book about the beauty and dignity of human beings even when cloaked in poverty, addiction or mental health problems … The heroic people both housed and homeless who she encounters are chronicled as entries in a ledger book of dignity, respect and love. Leahy is an outsider herself and it is clear she likes it like that but, standing separate as she does, she makes a bridge to those much further out than she and brings them back a little from their exile. Hers is not a sentimental story but a gritty adamantine determination to bring to the tribe of the disaffected comfort in the face of bleakness. She is not out to change people or to pry into their lives and the choices they have made. She makes it her mission to give the basic needs of comfort, care and respect and if they share their stories that is received in a centred place, heard and not judged … This is a rich and full account but yet there is a piece held back. The open and generous gift of a life lived in the service of the dispossessed still has need of a personal space and Leahy remains enigmatic and private, despite a life’s work out on the streets of Dublin and in the public eye. What you do see is the undaunted warrior, the difficult agitator, the practical nurse, the decent woman tender in compassion. This is not the story of a saint but someone far better, a soldier in the service of love. But it is more than that. It is a great read and a great gift for Christmas.

John O’Brien, President of the Irish College of General Practitioners, writing in The Irish Times

If you buy one book this year, buy Alice Leahy's The Stars are Our Only Warmth'


Patricia Messenger, C103's Cork Today

searingly honest, rightly hardhitting and wonderfully written … [Alice has] a masterful way of capturing the spirit of different periods in [her] life. It should be required reading for politicians, ‘executives’, managers

John Quinn (author)


Dungarvan Observer

a women of immeasurable courage and her story is extraordinary

Image Magazine

the book is so special it should be compulsory reading for every politician

Fran Curry, Tipp FM

a memoir to warm hearts

Sunday Independent

Very highly recommended 

Clonmel Nationalist

We need more like her ... there is a nugget of wisdom on practically every page. It seems to me that this book should be required reading for every policy maker in the country ... for the lay reader this book will teach us that the 'hopeless cases' we pass on the streets on our visits to the capital are as deserving of love and attention as anyone. It's an absorbing read

Tuam Herald

Also by Catherine Cleary:

Life Sentence

Go to author page...

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