Members of Down Syndrome Ireland (Laois branch) outside county hall
By Lynda Kiernan firstname.lastname@example.org @laoisnews
A group with an ambitious vision to prepare adults with Down Syndrome for employment, is seeking a free site from Laois County Council.
Down Syndrome Ireland (Laois branch) has made a case to the council to provide four acres of land, near Portlaoise or Abbeyleix, “rent free on an indefinite lease” to locate organic horticultural farm with a shop, tearoom, pottery and indoor horse therapy arena.
It is hoped to realise the project within a decade.
The group see part of the recently acquired council site at Togher, Portlaoise, as a possible location. The council bought the 70 acre site for enterprise and development.
Michael Gorman, PRO of DSI Laois branch, explained the reasons for the request at the council's May meeting.
“The existing provision for our adults is wholly inadequate, discriminatory, tokenistic, and a breach of human rights. Occasionally you will see people with intellectual disabilities walking around with their key worker, this is not social inclusion, paraded around as if different.
“Of the 32 percent of people with disabilities in Laois who have a job, the amount with intellectual disabilities is miniscule, if at all.
“We want happy productive people, out of centres. The phrase ‘special needs’ does not apply here. Their needs are not special, they are ordinary. We simply want to equip them with the skills so they can go straight from home to work,” he said.
DSI Laois is based in Abbeyleix at a centre which provides many therapies and services.
Many of the group's members packed the public gallery on the day of the meeting.
Aoife Byrne, a 2nd year student in Mountmellick Community School was among them.
“I think it’s really good, I just want to go out to a café to work, to have a job,” she said.
Senior council management did not comment on the presentation but it was backed by councillors including Cllr John Moran, whse adult son Mark has Down Syndrome.
“All they need is a helping hand, and that’s up to us to give,” he said.