Former agony uncle Horace McDermott has come up with a new approach to help promote SICAP. To make sure everyone can pronounce it he is introducing tattoos.

Ireland is renowned for its acronyms as anyone in the community sector will testify. Recently, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) confirmed that the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) has achieved more than any other government-funded acronym.

Some acronyms reflect what they’re about more than others. LEADER, for example, gives the impression of a programme that is to the forefront and ahead of the rest. UCD, on the other hand, suggests students didn’t see many As, Bs or Cs in their results.


HORACE MCDERMOTT – the former civil servant, one-time community worker, and occasional agony uncle – is spearheading a campaign to help those who have difficulty pronouncing the name of the multi-million euro programme to reduce poverty through community development.

However, SICAP has the distinction of also being used as a verb, as in, “You’ve been SICAPPED!”

But how do you pronounce it?

It had me really worried for a while. I kept thinking of it as the NICAP programme, as in ‘kneecap’, but that was run by a different outfit.

Even participants on the programme don’t know they’ve been SICAPPED, let alone know how to pronounce it. They just think it was Mary or Tom down in the centre that lent them a hand. They’d remember if they were sent to Love Island, but can’t remember SICAP which has higher success rates.

Alarmingly, some TDs are still asking ‘What it’s all about?’ Many couldn’t pronounce the name of the €190-million, five-year programme to reduce poverty through community development.

So, I called Pobal and they have now contracted me (after a long public tendering process) to help promote the programme.

I’ve given up darts, divorced herself, said goodbye to my children for a while, and dedicated the next five years to bringing people together under the programme banner.  Last week, I rolled out my first Pobal-backed initiative – from now on everyone involved in the programme must be able to pronounce it properly. As a bonus, they get a free tattoo.

Yesterday, Changing Ireland sat in on one of my sessions – hidden behind a dummy mirror, due to privacy concerns – and even they were impressed.

Here’s how it went:

Community worker (CW): “Say SICAP.”

Citizen (actually Sheilagh Murrey from Durtnagapall): “OK, here goes… Sickapp.”

CW: “No.”

Citizen: “Sea-cab.”

CW: “No, that’s how LCDC people say it.” [Not all! – Ed.]

Citizen: “Free-cap.”

CW, exasperated now: “Try harder.”

Citizen: “Mud-flap.”

CW: “Look, there’s no point in us getting you on a course, into a job or supporting your group if you think it was Santa Claus gave you the dig-out. Now say it!”

Citizen: “Recap.”

CW: “No.”

Citizen: “Night cap.”

CW: “For feck’s sake, Sheilagh!”

Citizen: “Wait! I have it. Sigh-cap?”

CW: “That’s it! Well done!”

Citizen: “Can I go now?”

CW: “Not yet.”

That’s when I stepped into the room. “Well done Sheilagh on passing the pronunciation test. To mark the occasion, we can offer you a free SICAP tattoo. Roll up your sleeve there please.”

Citizen (still Sheilagh): “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll just take the support, the advice and any grants going, cheers.”

Community worker: “Yerra, go on. There’s no charge for the tattoo. Also, Sheilagh, it’s necessary for us to meet our EU programme visibility requirements.”

Citizen, recognising that EU requirements trump all: “Hmm… It’s a nice logo, I suppose – very colourful. OK, go on so, put ‘Sigh-cap’ on my forearm.”

I reached for the needle and a biro. “Now, please sign this 12-page form exonerating us of any responsibility if it discolours, or anything else goes wrong.”

Citizen: “Uhm…”

She went ahead with it anyway.


“Done. Congratulations! You’ve been SICAPPED,” I told her.

That’s when the community worker started started showing off their tattoes: “Look, I got my midriff SICAPPED, and across my back I’ve got five EU and department logos too!”