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Connemara graduate shines light on life with Down Syndrome

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Róisín de Burca is a strong, ambitious woman who enjoys water sports; is a regular kayaker, and holds a blue belt in Taekwondo. She successfully sat all seven subjects in her Leaving Cert and went on to complete a third-level course at NUIG.

All she wants now is a break to get a job and establish her career as an independent woman – but Róisín also has Down Syndrome.

The Leitir Móir native is well used to defying the odds from the start; so much so that, according to her father Damien, her siblings never saw her as anything other than another member of a large family.

“Growing up, her brother and sisters didn’t realise (she had a condition); she had to hold her own,” he says.

The same could not be said of society however and Róisín has spent the last three years looking for a job and a chance to build a fully independent life.

“It is very hard for people with disabilities to find a job. Opportunity is what we need,” she says.

Róisín wants to tell her story to highlight World Down Syndrome Day, which takes place on Monday week, March 21 – with the message this year: “I’m a person, not a syndrome”.

She is one of seven children – Eoin, Beartla, Diarmaid, Róisín, Caoimhín, Tuathlaith, and Rumhann – of parents Damien and Eileen.

Damien credits the local schools and tight knit community of Leitir Móir for creating an inclusive and supportive environment. She sat her Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams alongside the other pupils in her class.

“As far as we know, she is the first person with Down Syndrome to have completed the full Leaving Cert,” says her father proudly.

“Some (students with DS) have completed the Leaving Cert Applied or completed one or two subjects, but Róisín was the first to sit all seven subjects,” he adds.

Following this impressive feat, Róisín decided to further her education and attained a FETAC Level 5 Certificate in Business Administration with GTI.

Again, against the odds, Róisín challenged herself and conventions by enrolling in a University course. She was awarded a Certificate in Arts from NUI Galway in 2012. Her hard-earned credentials attest her commitment, resilience and gumption.

But despite her insatiable hunger for work, Róisín remains unemployed; she feels there simply aren’t enough opportunities out there to accommodate people with her condition.

“I would love to be out working in an environment that is acceptable and challenging for a person with a disability, who could really bring a lot to the workforce,” she adds.

“The one message I have for candidates and political parties is to create new jobs and opportunities for people” she said, adding “What employment opportunities will there be for me in Galway?”

She has been actively searching for work for over three years.

“She wants a job…and we want her to have a job too,” says her father.

“It is a bit disconcerting for Róisín, she wants to have the same sort of life as everyone else, that includes going to work and going for a pint in the local.”

But he points to a climate of ignorance which leads to misconceptions being taken as fact.

“Years ago people weren’t educated on disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities… and some people still have the view that’s the way things are. That will only change as they get to know them and meet them,” says Damien.

“Some people’s views are 30 or 40 years out of date,” he adds.

Pat Clarke, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland puts it simply: “All people with Down syndrome, are the same as everyone else – the fact that they have an extra chromosome shouldn’t impinge on their rights.

“People with Down Syndrome must be able to enjoy full and equal rights – both as children and adults. This includes the opportunity to participate fully in their respective communities.”

Mr. Clarke is of the assertion that currently, the Irish Government is only ‘paying lip service’ to disability rights whilst schemes and strategies which are inherently discriminatory continue to ostracize people with disabilities.

According to Mr. Clarke, people with Down Syndrome are one of the most ‘under-represented groups in the Irish labour market’ – and yet they represent a ‘substantial source of untapped commitment and talent’.

Damien de Burca agrees: “As a parent you’re fighting the system all the time, but people with disabilities need appropriate intervention at the right time and that these services aren’t always available.”

Pat Clarke puts the onus on the Government to ensure services (speech & language therapy, occupational therapy, respite services, special needs assistants); jobs and opportunities are made available to all.

World Down Syndrome Day takes place on March 21; now in its eleventh year, it is an international day recognised by the United Nations – an initiative spearheaded by Down Syndrome Ireland.

DSI will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day early on Sunday, March 20, with an inaugural Purple Run.

Supporters can take part in either the 5k of 1k routes; register online.

CITY TRIBUNE

Car enthusiasts say they have “every right” to use Salthill as event confirmed

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – Car enthusiasts say they have “every right” to use Salthill this weekend as an event has been announced for Sunday.

It’s been confirmed by organisers on social media – who say they’re being unfairly portrayed in a negative light.

In a statement, the Galway Car Scene group say they pay road tax like all other road users – and they have “every right” to be in Salthill this weekend.

It comes as they’ve confirmed the event will be taking place there on Sunday as originally planned.

They add it’s unfair to accuse them of blocking up Salthill and other parts of the city given the chronic traffic issues every day of the week.

They’ve also created an online petition calling for a designated place for car enthusiasts to go – which has so far gathered almost 250 signatures.

It claims the car enthusiast community in Galway has been unfairly painted as a negative and anti-social group.

The group say they’re happy to go elsewhere, but say any time they try to find a venue they’re shut out.

The event planned for Sunday has encountered significant opposition, much of which is based on a previous “Salthill Sundays” event held in May.

Those opposed say they’re not against an event of this kind in principle – but they strongly feel that Salthill just isn’t the right venue.

It’s also argued that if the organisers want to be taken seriously, they have to engage with stakeholders like Galway City Council and Gardaí to ensure a well-planned and safe event.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cars down to one-way system on Salthill Promenade

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A one-way system of traffic may be introduced along the Promenade in Salthill to facilitate the introduction of temporary cycle lanes.

The suggestion appeared to come as a shock to some City Council members who supported the cycle lane in a vote last month – one has called for a “full discussion again” on what exactly they had actually approved.

Councillors had voted 17-1 in favour of the principle of providing a cycleway that will stretch from Grattan Road all along the Prom.

The motion that passed at the September meeting proposed that the Council “shall urgently seek” to create a two-way segregated cycle track on a temporary basis along the coastal side of the Prom.

It was agreed that from the Blackrock Tower junction to the Barna Road would be a one-way cycle track.

The motion was voted on without debate, which meant Council officials did not have an opportunity to question the proposal.

At a meeting on Monday, the debate was revisited when Uinsinn Finn, Director of Services for Transportation, indicated that a one-way traffic system would be introduced in Salthill to facilitate a two-way cycle lane from Grattan Road to Blackrock.

This could mean that the outbound lane of traffic, closest to the sea, could be closed to all traffic bar bikes.

Mr Finn said that he would have sought clarity at the previous meeting – if debate were allowed – about what was meant by ‘temporary’.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Christmas Market gets go-ahead for next month

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – It’s the first real sign of a restoration of normality in terms of the retail and hospitality sectors in the city – the return of the Christmas Market next month to Eyre Square.

This week, the City Council’s planning department gave the go-ahead for the outdoor retail and gourmet food ‘spread’ that has been part of the festive season in Galway since 2010.

The exception was last year when, like so many other public gatherings since the Covid crisis broke in March 2020, the event had to be cancelled because of public health concerns.

Christmas Market Organiser, Maria Moynihan Lee, Managing Director of Milestone Inventive, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that she had received official confirmation on Thursday from the City Council of the go-ahead being given for the event.

“This is really wonderful news for the city and especially so in terms of the retail and hospitality sectors. For every €1 spent at the market another €3 will be spent on the high street – this will be a real boost for Galway,” she said.

Maria Moynihan Lee confirmed that the market would have an earlier than usual start of Friday, November 12 and would run through until the Wednesday evening of December 22.

(Photo: Declan Colohan)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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