Outside Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, the passers-by are bemused. That’s because they’re being harangued by a group of men and women dressed as Mrs Doyle from Father Ted: “Go on, go on, go on, go on, refresh the call for global justice,” they chant, in semi-convincing Irish accents.
The Mrs Doyles are surprisingly well informed about the overseas development budget: “Labour promised in 1974 that 0.7% of GDP would be ring-fenced for aid,” says one particularly hairy Mrs Doyle, “and 35 years later, we’re still waiting… Now will you have a cup of tea?”
Today is Teatime for Change, a lobby organised by a coalition of aid agencies: alongside CAFOD are Christian Aid, Action Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and Tearfund. The idea is that members of the public can sit down with their MPs and talk to them about why overseas aid matters.
Bernie O’Callaghan, 66, is here, even though her MP can’t make it. Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North, is delivering a speech in Geneva, but Bernie came along anyway for the Ecumenical Service and to show support.
“We have to do anything we can to help persuade politicians to stick to their policies,” she says, “to show them that we do care. If enough people petition them, they’ll act – because they know it means votes.
“I’m an MP Correspondent for CAFOD, and I’ve lost count of the number of letters I’ve written to my MP. Lee Scott is usually very good at responding. He passes my letters on to other MPs or to Ministers, and he writes back to me promptly.
“I had an operation on my hand recently, and so I couldn’t write letters to him. I made phone-calls instead. If I phoned him, he would speak to me if he was there.
“I campaign because it’s the right thing to do. I have time now, which I didn’t have when I was younger. And I’m more aware now. There are so many things going on in the world that we don’t know enough about.
“I’ve known of CAFOD since its inception. My mother was a member of the Catholic Women’s League. CAFOD has grown and developed, and I’ve grown and developed with them.
“My faith does inspire me, but even if I wasn’t a Catholic, I would do these things.”