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Minister opens new sensory garden as St Dympna’s marks 50-year celebrations

It was a case of acknowledging the past and laying the foundations for the future as St. Dympna’s Day Service marked its half century in Portumna – with a new Sensory Garden to set it up for an even great chapter over the next fifty years.

Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte TD officially opened the new Sensory Garden in Portumna last week.

And with St. Dympna’s celebrating 50 years in operation in 2024, it was a double celebration, combining this significant milestone with the opening of the Sensory Garden.

St. Dympna’s service is owned and operated by Ability West who manage more than 60 Day, Residential and Respite Services across Galway City and County.

“Celebrating 50 years in operation for any service is testament to a long tradition of exceptional care of people who are intellectually disabled,” said CEO of Ability West, Julie Silke Daly.

“There is great thanks due to Gerry Blake, Person in Charge at St. Dympna’s, the current staff team and previous staff members, many of whom are here today, for their continued support of the service,” she added.

The CEO paid particular tribute to the many volunteers, branch members and local community who have supported St. Dympna’s throughout the years.

“A special mention to the late Maureen Lyons, who had a vision for local day, residential and respite services in the area to support people with disabilities,” she said.

“We’re fortunate that her daughter Geraldine continues to avail of and enjoy the services in both day and residential here in Portumna.

“Geraldine was one of the first people to avail of the services back in 1974 along with Christopher Smith and Frankie Cawley. These were followed by Fiona Leonard who also continues to avail of our services. None of these services would be possible, without the help of the Department and Minister Rabbitte for her outstanding support to the persons in our care,” she added.

Minister Rabbitte said that – as both the Minister for Disability and a TD for the area – she was thrilled to open the new Sensory Garden.

“Sensory gardens can be such an immersive experience, full of textures, smells and sounds, and come with so many benefits,” she said.

“This is why in 2021, I established a €1 million fund for the provision of sensory initiatives around the country, which supports projects just like what we see here in St Dympna’s.

“It is fantastic to be marking 50 years of Ability West, who are such an important provider in Galway and mean so much to people with disabilities and their families. I want to acknowledge the hard work of the staff here in Portumna. The work they do is so important and as a town, Portumna is lucky to have St Dympna’s as part of our community.

“There are so many people who have contributed to making Ability West what it is today and they all need to be acknowledged as without the support of the people of Galway, we wouldn’t have Ability West. Its longevity is testament to the support it offers and I don’t doubt they will continue for another 50 years to come,” concluded the Minister.

Pictured: Minister Anne Rabbitte and Jimmy Jackson cutting the ribbon on the new sensory garden at St. Dympna’s.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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