RTE’s Miriam O’Callaghan with Hugh McKenna OFM, Minister Provincial and Chair of Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), and Tony Geoghegan, CEO, at the launch of the annual report on 14 September at Franciscan friary, Merchants’ Quay, Dublin.

MQI provided more than 73,000 meals to people last year, up from 64,000 in 2010. The 14 per cent increase was attributable to the “devastating effects of the economic downturn” and was 1980s history repeating itself, said the charity’s chief executive, Tony Geoghegan. Demand for the charity’s free GP service also increased in 2011 by more than 20 per cent from 874 to more than 1,150.

The charity works with homeless people and drug users in Dublin and the midlands. It provides services including day support, educational and vocational training as well as residential treatment, detoxification and prison counselling.

In his introduction to the report Hugh McKenna O.F.M, wrote: “MQI’s work has long been inspired by the life and example of Francis of Assisi, the thirteenth century saint who reached out in love to those who were marginalised in his day.” He quoted an American Franciscan Hugh Noonan who wrote: “People are still looking for a definition of love. But it isn’t a definition – it’s a doing; it’s a fillling the need. It’s not talking to the ear, but to the human heart.” Hugh went on: “In 2011 MQI’s staff throughout the country filled this need – speaking to the human heart in their every deed – helping all those who came to us, without judgement.