WDSD 2023 “With-Us-Not-For-Us” – Ireland

On the 1st October, 2022 I got elected on to the Ard Comhairle of Fianna Fáil. I believe I am the first person with Down Syndrome to be elected to a senior position in a political party within Europe. This involves sitting in meetings with the Leader of the Party and Ministers.
I am not afraid to stand up and voice my views for the people I represent.

This is my background and career

When I was born with Down Syndrome my parents told me they wanted me to grow up independent with my siblings, school friends and neighbours.

It was important that I got involved with the local branch of Down Syndrome Ireland. I attended my first Down Syndrome Christmas party when I was 11 months old.
Since then I have made very good friends who I am friendly with to this day.
Today I am involved with Down Syndrome through Speech and drama, book club, dancing and swimming (where I represented Ireland at the European and World Games.
In the last year I have switched over to artistic swimming. My good friend Eleanor Murray and myself are going to represent Ireland in the European Games in Italy in September.

Education is very important for people with Down Syndrome. I attended mainstream education: St Tola’s NS, Delvin, St Finian’s college Secondary school, Mullingar Cavan Institute, Cavan (where I studied hospitality). I had the assistance of SNA’s and resource teaching.
After Graduating from Cavan Institute I started looking for work experience. I found it easy enough to get work experience but quite difficult to get a proper paid job.

Through the Down Syndrome Employment programme I secured my dream job. I work in Clonabreaney House, a wedding venue, serving tea and coffee at the meet and greet and afterwards table service. I work at all the weddings they host per week. I have a contract and am paid the standard wage. I am treated as an equal employee. Even though I was born with Down Syndrome I am well capable of holding down a full time job.

I got very annoyed during Covid looking at my friends who were in workshops being left at home for a lot longer than necessary. Looking at the quality of life they had compared to me. I started to lobby politicians: local County Councillors, TD’s and Senators through emails and phone calls requesting them to provide proper education and paid employment for people with a disability. 

I got myself on to the National Council of DSI, I have been involved in Orga Fianna Fáil for the last 6-7 years. Got myself elected on to various committees within Orga which I still serve on. All this time I have been lobbying politicians and the powers to be for better education and work opportunities for people with disabilities.

Since being elected to the Ard Comhairle I have addressed conferences/meetings:

  • Prosper Meath, 
  • Navan (a day service for people with disabilities)
  • An Education Forum with Norma Foley, Minister for Education 
  • A Disability Forum with Minister Anne Rabbit
  • Inclusion Ireland 
  • Trinity College
  • Disability Forum.