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The Venue

Honorary Life Members 2016

Hon-Lif-Mem-2016-810-395JBF.jpgMr Jim Bolger

The thoroughbred horse industry in Ireland is renowned for its blind belief that tradition is an all-important route to achieve success. Not so with thoroughbred trainer Jim Bolger. The foundation of his success was not inherited. Jim stands out as different. He is an astute businessman, employs more than 100 people and has broken world records with Finsceal Beo, Lush Lashes (the 4 year old filly by Galileo), and New Approach. Jim has been described on occasions in the press as a phenomenon, as legendary and even as a genius.

Jim comes from a well-known farming family in Co. Wexford. There were horses on the farm and Jim as a young man loved the horses and loved working with them. On leaving home and moving to Dublin he studied to be an accountant, but did not pursue accountancy as a career. The lure of horses was great and he started training both national hunt and flat with equal success from his base in Lahunda Park in Clonsilla. The Phoenix Park was his training ground. He took out his trainer’s licence in July 1976, and recorded four winners by year end. Each year from thereon the number of winners increased. Jim was noted for his particular training talent with fillies and this led to his interest in a breeding programme.

In 1982 he moved to Glebe House in Coolcullen Co. Carlow, which is his training establishment and from where he turned out so many winners over the last 30 years. Jim has won the Irish Derby twice with St Jovite and Trading Leather, the English Derby with New Approach and the Dewhurst Stakes five times with Teofilo, New Approach, Intense Focus, Parish Hall, and Dawn Approach, to mention but a very few. In 2013 when Trading Leather won the Irish Derby it ran in Jackie Bolger’s silks and was ridden by Jim’s son-in-law Kevin Manning. Jim Bolger’s successes in other Group 1 races in England, France, Italy, and Hong Kong are again too numerous to list.

His second establishment - Beechy Park in Rathvilly Co. Carlow - is another outstanding estate and an elegant home for the yearling colts when they leave Redmondstown Stud in Co Wexford, which has been described as being like an exclusive private maternity clinic. Jim Bolger’s breeding programme has produced top-class horses such as Teofilo, Trading Leather and Dawn Approach.

In this technological age, science must surely have an impact on the workings of the breeding industry and Jim, a thinking man, embraced the possibility even though at this stage he already stood at the pinnacle of his career as a trainer. Equinome, a UCD spin out company, was co-founded in 2009 by Jim and Professor Emmeline Hill. This company works with the world’s leading training and breeding operations to provide genetic information on individual horses. The speed gene in Thoroughbreds. Jim describes this test as ’the most significant discovery in the history of the thoroughbred’. For the part Jim played in progressing this research he was conferred with a DSc honoris causa by University College Dublin.

Kevin Blake, a young racing journalist, tweeted recently that a trainer has to play accountant, human resource manager, therapist, salesperson and social butterfly.

Jim Bolger’s abilities -to succeed at the highest level in both the highly competitive breeding and racing industries, to have an ability to tutor future trainers and jockeys, to show a natural curiosity and an open mind to analyse and apply new knowledge- are unmatched and establish him as one of the greatest multitalented individuals to ever emerge from this country. The names of people who have passed through the Bolger academy and made it to the very top of their professions in the racing industry are staggering. The stories of the early days of Bolger lore are etched in Irish racing folklore. Jim’s contribution to and impact on the industry globally was recognised in 2013 when he was the first recipient of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and Longines International Award of Merit.


Fr Peter McVerry SJ

Fr Peter McVerry SJ was born in Belfast and grew up in Newry, Co. Down. He was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Newry and later at the Jesuit school at Clongowes Wood College in Co. Kildare.

In 1962, he entered the Jesuit Order and was ordained in 1975. From 1974 to 1980, Peter worked and lived in Dublin’s north inner city. There he came into contact with young people who were sleeping on the streets and others impacted by severe deprivation.  He opened a hostel for homeless boys; aged 12-16, in 1979 and this subsequently became his life’s work.   He saw through the work of this hostel that when the boys reached 16 and needed to leave, they had few options open to them and most ended up back living on the streets. This realisation led him to set about providing services and accommodation for these older youths.

In 1980 Peter moved to Ballymun and by the end of 1983 he had founded the Arrupe Society, a charity to tackle homelessness, drug misuse and social disadvantage. In 2005 the charity was renamed the Peter McVerry Trust and has progressed from a three bedroom flat in Ballymun to provide a wide range of services and supports for individuals with complex needs. Eight years ago the charity provided 25 beds to homeless people. In response to the current homeless crisis which has resulted in over 6000 people being homeless, the charity today operates support services involving over 600 beds in Dublin, Kildare, Limerick, Laois and Offaly. It currently provides four residential care homes for children under 18 years of age, 15 homeless hostels, 145 apartments, a youth cafe, an open access centre, a  residential drug detox centre and a drug stabilisation service.

The work of Peter McVerry Trust is driven by Peter’s vision of Ireland that supports all those living on the margins and upholds their rights to full inclusion in society.  In 2015 the charity worked with over 4,700 individuals across its services. The majority of these are young single men aged 35 or under.

As a social activist Peter is a strong advocate for those who have no voice in society.  He has campaigned on a wide variety of issues including homelessness, housing, drugs, juvenile justice, prisons and education. He is widely recognised as an authoritative and independent voice on these and other issues.

His work has been widely recognised and Peter has been conferred with many distinctions and awards  . These including being made a Freeman of the City of Dublin  in 2014 , being conferred with a  Human Rights Award by the Government of France; and with Honorary Doctorates by Trinity College, the Royal College of Physicians,  and Dublin City University.

Peter is  a prolific and thought provoking writer. He has been the author of a number books including “The Meaning is in the Shadows”, “Jesus – Social Revolutionary?” and his latest book, “The God of Mercy, The God of the Gospels”. He  is also a regular contributor on social issues to the Irish Times.

Peter continues to spend a significant amount of time visiting and speaking to community groups, schools, faith groups and other organisations throughout Ireland. These discussions and presentations help people to gain a greater insight into the issues of homelessness and the people impacted by it.  For example through one week placements thoughout the year he offers transition year students an opportunity to engage with people who are homeless, as well as gaining an insight into  the systems that many young homeless people end up encountering. .

Today, he continues to live in Ballymun and works from Peter McVerry Trust’s Open Access Centre in Upper Sherrard Street.  He remains one of Ireland’s most prominent social justice campaigners and his work with and on behalf of disadvantaged young people has made him one of the most distinguished voices in Ireland today.


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