Independent Living Movement Ireland

Our Staff

Damien Walshe | ILMI

Damien Walshe

Chief Executive

Nina Byrne | ILMI

Nina Byrne

Communications Officer

Susan O'Brien | ILMI

Susan O’Brien

Development Officer

Shelly Gaynor | ILMI

Shelly Gaynor

Peer Mentoring Worker

Peter Kearns | ILMI

Peter Kearns

ONSIDE Project Manager

James Casey | ILMI

James Casey

ONSIDE Health & Housing Officer

Angela Colemen | ILMI

Angela Coleman

ONSIDE Project Administrator

Edel McGinley | ILMI

Edel McGinley

ONSIDE Community Navigator Monaghan

Orla Beirne | ILMI

Orla Beirne

ONSIDE Community Navigator Donegal

Clive Lowry | ILMI

Clive Lowry

ONSIDE Community Navigator / Louth

Mark McCullum | ILMI

Mark McCullum

ONSIDE Community Navigator / Donegal

Fiona Weldon | ILMI

Fiona Weldon

Strategies for Change Project Worker

Patrick Flanagan | ILMI

Patrick Flanagan

CREATE project
coordinator

Paula Soraghan | ILMI

Paula Soraghan

VOICE community Development worker

Nicola Meacle | ILMI

Nicola Meacle

VOICE community development worker

Nicola Kenny | ILMI

Claire Kenny

ILMI Policy Assistant

Nem Kearns | ILMI

Nem Kearns

FSI Development workers
(part-time)

Niall Jordan | ILMI

Niall Jordan

FSI Development workers
(part-time)

Isabel Keane | ILMI

Isabel Keane

Social Media (part-time)

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Damien Walshe

Chief Executive

Damien joined ILMI in October 2017 and has over 15 years experience in equality and human rights organisations, including the Irish Traveller Movement, the Equality and Rights Alliance and Aontas. Damien is keen to bring previous experience of actively engaging and supporting people to work collectively in to ILMI to ensure that people with disabilities see ILMI as a vehicle for change to bring about equality in Irish society.

Nina Byrne

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

Nina joined ILMI in 2011 to work on what was then called the Strasbourg Freedom Drive now the Brussels Freedom Drive and has worked on many other projects where she helped coordinate the communications and event management, including the Mansion House “Meet your TD” event where ILMIs and their members from around the country came to speak with their local representative. Nina also worked on the Personal Assistance Bill project and the Disability Studies course run in conjunction with NUI Maynooth.

With a background in corporate communications and marketing a degree in Graphic Design and Fine Art Nina has a diverse range of experience and skills and bring them all to the Irish Independent Living movement. The ILMI eBulletin, the ILMI Social media accounts and maintaining links with and building the ILMI membership are part of her day to day work.

Susan O’Brien

Development Officer

Susan has been employed with ILMI since 2003. Prior to joining ILMI she graduated from NUIG with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Susan went on to study for a Masters in Business Studies where she specialised in Electronic Commerce. She was a member of the academic team in NUIG for two years before going on to work in logistics management for a multinational healthcare manufacturer. Susan’s original role with ILMI centered on European development. She is currently the Development Officer.

James Cawley

Policy Officer

James joined ILMI in August 2018. He graduated with a BA in Business and Geography and a Professional Masters of Education at Maynooth University. Previous to his role with ILMI James was a secondary school teacher and has done research on disability issues on a National and European level. James is a leader of his Personal Assistant service (PAS) which allows him to live a life of choice, dignity and respect.

Shelly Gaynor

Peer Mentoring Worker
I have recently joined the ILMI team as Peer Mentor for the Greater Dublin Area. My role is to directly work with disabled people in the Greater Dublin area to access the supports and services they need to live independent lives. I’m very excited about this role as I have been involved in the Independent Living Movement for over twenty plus years in Ireland. I have had the pleasure and privilege to call many of the founders of the movement personal friends of mine not only were they friends but also peer mentors to me on my own journey to independence and onto independent living. Independent living is something I’m very passionate about and ensuring that disabled people have freedom, choice and control in their lives, something that non-disabled people take for granted. With this I have joined many activists across the country on numerous campaigns that had a focus on “rights not charity”. A personal highlight for me was in 2012 when I was part of a small number of people who did an overnight stay outside Leinster house to make sure the government took us seriously and to ensure Personal Assistance Service funding was not going to be cut by 50 percent. We maintained that we were not going anywhere until we had the commitment in writing that this cut would not happen. It is moments like this that remind me of the importance of collective action and the strength of a movement of people working together. Personally, I have been using a Personal Assistance Service (PAS) since the age of 18. I was with a service provider for nearly 20 however in recent years I have moved to direct payments via Aiseanna Tacaiochta (AT). A PAS allows me to be me, the person I want to be. I’m delighted to join the staff of ILMI in light of the momentous unanimous passing of the motion on PAS that happened in November 2019. I hope to bring and indeed pass on the guidance and insight I have gained throughout the years to fellow disabled people that was shown to me. I was always told that if you really want something in life that in can be achieved once one is willing to work towards it. Nothing is handed to anyone on a plate disabled or not. Once you have the right mind-set that distant dream can become a reality. I look forward to working with existing ILMI members and spreading the message and philosophy of independent living to other disabled people. I feel it’s important to let people know that they are not alone in the everyday struggle of daily living with a disability and that the movement is full of people with shared lived experience that is worth sharing.

Peter Kearns

ONSIDE Project Manager

Peter started work with ILMI in June 2019 as ONSIDE Project Coordinator. Peter graduated from Trinity College in the late 1980s with an English Honours degree and followed this with an MA in Film & TV Studies at DCU and a Higher Diploma in Adult & Community Education from Maynooth College. He also has higher Dips. in Disability Studies and Arts European Mentoring.

Peter lectured at St. Angela’s College (NUIG) and has written-up QQ1-Level 8 & 9 Modules promoting a need for a Emancipatory-Advocacy way of thinking & practice for & with disabled people. In the mid 1990’s Peter established THE WORKHOUSE, a disability consultancy company involved in equality/mentor/arts training in Ireland, Europe and Asia. In terms of linking social model led disability equality with effective practice on the ground, Peter was a Community Support Consultant with Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency (DESSA) and Development & Policy Worker with Forum of People With Disabilities. He is also a writer/dramatist, documentary & film maker. Peter also enjoys extreme trekking and has two children Deirbhile & Oisin and lives in Co. Leitrim.

James Casey

ONSIDE Health & Housing Officer

I joined ILMI in June 2019 as the Disability, Health and Housing officer with the ONSIDE project. Professionally, my background is in teaching and research and for several years I taught courses on film, media and literature in university. I have worked as an equality awareness consultant, an editor and as a reviewer for several international journals. I hold a BA in English and Philosophy, a MA in Film Studies and a PhD. My research focussed on how films represent and construct disability and impairments.

As a disabled person, I understand, and appreciate, the importance of the social model and how it has transformed our lives, our thinking and our fight for equality, but yet I am aware there are still challenges for us to meet as a collective. Disability equality is part of the wider equality movement, it is a matter of human rights, and we can achieve real and permanent change together. It is an exciting time to be part of independent living and disability rights movements.

Angela Coleman

ONSIDE Project Administrator

My name is Angela Coleman, and I have joined ILMI as Part Time Administrator for the ONSIDE Project.

I have worked in the community sector for over 15 years, and hope to bring my experience and expertise to the role, and to support all members of the team.

Edel McGinley

ONSIDE Community Navigator Monaghan

Edel joined ILMI in June 2019 as Community Navigator (Monaghan/Louth) with the ONSIDE Project.

Edel graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Queens University Belfast in 2010. Since this she has worked in a variety of roles empowering people to take control of their own lives and fulfil their potential. Edel has experience supporting individuals with disabilities, mental health issues, long- term unemployment and addictions.

Edel previously worked on a cross border project supporting disabled people overcome challenges to participating in everyday activities and become active citizens within their community.

Edel is enthusiastic to be part of the ONSIDE Project and utilise her previous experience to help address social isolation amongst disabled people.

Orla Beirne

ONSIDE Community Navigator Donegal

Orla joined ILMI in August 2019 and is the Community Navigator for the Donegal and Sligo region with the ONSIDE Project.

Orla graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Health and Disability studies from St Angela’s College, Sligo in 2014 and was accredited a Certificate in Training Delivery and Evaluation from the Open College Dublin in 2016. Before her role with ILMI, Orla worked as a Personal Assistant, Community Support Worker and delivered training programmes to different groups.

Orla has experience of delivering a social model service to disabled people in the community. This service involved supporting individuals to enhance their health and wellbeing by developing a personal action plan supporting them to identify their options and/or opportunities. Personal action plans entailed the individual engaging with mainstream facilities/services to increase their participation in all aspects of their lives.

Clive Lowry

ONSIDE Community Navigator / Louth

Since graduating from Cavan Institute in 2011 with a BTEC Higher National Diploma in Health and Social Care, Clive has supported disabled adults in the community under the social model of disability ethos for almost ten years. During which time he has acquired skills, experience and expertise with supporting disabled adults to actively participate in their own community, achieve personal goals and enhance their emotional health and wellbeing. Clive is a sports enthusiast with links to the GAA Community and is an activist with lived experience of disability. He is eager to learn new skills professionally and draw from the highly skilled and vast expertise of the ONSIDE Project and ILMI staff team.

The ONSIDE project will support disabled people to remove societal barriers and take control over of all aspects of their lives, thus promoting freedom, choice and equality by utilising the right’s based social model of disability. Clive is looking forward to developing new skills in the area of community development, activism and the development of a disabled person’s organisation in Co. Louth.

Mark McCullum

ONSIDE Community Navigator / Donegal

Mark has recently joined ILMI; he is a psychology graduate from the University of Ulster with over 20 years’ experience in the fields of arts based community development, group and one-to-one training, advocacy, issues pertaining to older people, an inclusive ethos. Mark was director of Blue Drum – The Arts Specialist Support Agency, responsible for developing the use of Arts Based Community Developing in Ireland.

He established the Balor Developmental Community Arts Group; a pioneering creative company aimed at developing social engaged art projects. Mark was also the Irish representative on the European Reminiscence Theatre Network, developing innovative training for families of people with dementia. He is a passionate advocate for an inclusive, fair and equal society. He is a thalassophile; a sea swimmer all his life and a founder member of the Gartan Open Water Swimmers and an international Cardiac athlete. He has two teenage daughters; Jade & Lauren and he lives in Raphoe, Co. Donegal with his faithful German Shepard – Imme.

Fiona Weldon

Strategies for Change Project Worker

Fiona Weldon joined ILMI in November of this year and has over 30 years of experience in working in the Disability Sector. All of her work is motivated by the reality of the effects of segregation, exclusion and non-disabled professionalism. Henceforward promoting the need for a Rights Based Model of Support to people that are labelled disabled (as opposed to our current resource based model of support that is dominated by both the Medical Model of Disability and the Charity Model of Disability) that is driven by both the Social Model of Disability and the Philosophy of Independent Living as professed by the Disabled People’s Movement.

Fiona’s initial work in this sector involved setting up a local Independent Living Service offering Personal Assistance to local disabled people that wanted more choice and more control over the human supports that they needed to assist them with their daily living tasks.

Fiona holds an MA in Disability Studies, Diploma’s in Community Development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Counselling Skills. She also holds Certificates in other subjects including Advanced Facilitation, Equality Studies, Social Care, Reality Therapy, Assistive Technology and Supported Self-Directed Living.

Fiona has worked for the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) in Trinity College, NUI Maynooth and the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre in Dublin City University. Her work here involved evaluating/researching and/or delivering evidence based Bespoke Training Programmes that purposely intended to enable disabled people to believe in themselves to want better lives. This work has both travelled nationally and internationally.

Patrick Flanagan

CREATE project coordinator

Patrick joins ILMI after spending six years working with Muscular Dystrophy Ireland where he was responsible for Fundraising and PR, while also leading a 2019 Independence and Engagement Project.

After graduating from DCU with a BA in Communication Studies, and MSc in Multimedia, Patrick pursued independent living which he achieved through securing Employment, Housing and PA Services. He is a strong believer in the value of social engagement and activity and has played an active role in disability sport and adapted physical activity for over ten years. Patrick had represented Ireland playing powerchair football since 2011, and has been an advocate/ambassador for a number of events and campaigns with CARA – Sport Inclusion Ireland.

As CREATE Project Coordinator, Patrick hopes to be able to bring his own experience and the experiences of other ILMI members to inspire and empower CREATE Project participants to achieve their own goals relating to employment and independent living in general.

Paula Soraghan

VOICE Community Development Worker

Paula started working with ILMI in January 2022 as a Community Development Worker for the VOICE project. She identifies as a proud disabled woman and advocate since discovering the social model of disability when she attended ILMI’s 2019 AGM.

She has a Joint BA from Maynooth University, A HDip in Drama Education from Griffith College, Dublin, and she is studying Disability Equality in St Angela’s College Sligo.

She is very passionate about the social model of disability and the importance of disabled people’s lived experience through a social model perspective to bring about positive social change.

She understands the importance of online spaces that help build community and empower disabled activists to create social change as she is an active member in ILMI, also.

She wants disabled people to feel confident and in control of their lives and ensure that they are reaching their full potential in their communities.

Nicola Meacle

VOICE community development worker

I first heard about the independent living movement in the early nineties when I attended an event organised by a group of Dublin-based disabled activists. My public health nurse volunteered with the Irish Wheelchair Association and had seen a poster.

I was living with my Parents in the countryside at that time and it was life-changing for me to hear disabled people articulating what I had felt intuitively i.e. Disabled people had the right to self-determination and to pursue the same aspirations as their non-disabled peers. Prior to that meeting, I hadn’t heard about the concept of Personal Assistance and it was the missing link I had been waiting for.

After graduating from UCC with a degree in social science, I worked in CORK CIL for approx. 20 years where I saw the significant and positive impact that Personal Assistance made in disabled people’s lives. The PA Service is one part of the jig saw that makes independent living possible. There is an interconnected importance of housing, personal assistance, transport, and an accessible physical environment in terms of achieving independent living. For those elements to be in place requires a commitment to and understanding of the social model of disability.

I also worked with Northside Community Enterprises as a CE Supervisor, supporting long-term unemployed people to gain the skills to access mainstream employment.”

Claire Kenny

ILMI Policy Assistant

I joined the ILMI team in January 2021 as policy assistant intern. My role involves working alongside James Cawley, policy officer on various projects and research.

Over the last year I have participated in many projects and groups such as ILMI’s housing network. The ILMI housing network was designed to assist disabled people to become active and effective members of their HDSGs. As the National housing policy for disabled people 2022-2027 was launched, it is important to have disabled peoples’ voices at the table.

It is really exciting time to be working for a DPO like Independent Living Movement Ireland whose vision and mission is an Ireland where disabled people have freedom choice and control over all aspects of our lives and be seen as equals in society.

In 2018 I graduated with an B.Sc. honours degree in Applied Biology and Biopharmaceutical Science from GMIT. As a very proud Disabled woman who faced some of the barriers encountered by many disabled people. It is personally very rewarding and fulfilling to work for an organisation who embraces the social model of disability and be a part of such a dynamic hard-working team.

I believe it is fundamentally important that disabled people are involved in a meaningful, authentic way in all facets of Society with our contributions valued and our rights respected.

Nem Kearns

FSI Development workers (part-time)

With a background in reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ and disability justice, Nem is excited to take up the role of Full Spectrum Community Development Worker. Full Spectrum Ireland (FSI) is an all-island peer-led organisation for disabled LGBTQIA+ people, focused on peer support and advocacy. Over the course of this project role, Nem looks forward to collaborating with their colleague Niall, the FSI membership, ILMI staff and the wider LGBTQIA+ community to grow this space.

Nem currently serves on the Boards of Disabled Women Ireland, ARC and TENI and is a co-founding member of Neuro Pride Ireland. They hope to bring this cross-community collaborative perspective to their work with Full Spectrum and ILMI. Nem also works as a disability policy advisor to elected officials and civil society organisers and firmly believes that intersectionality is fundamental to achieving meaningful equality, seeking to apply the maxim Nothing About Us, Without Us in all their work.

Niall Jordan

FSI Development workers (part-time)

Niall is originally from Sligo and has lived in South-Leitrim for the past 20 years. He attended University of Limerick where he was awarded a Bachelors in New Media and English (2006-2012). 

He has worked as YES Equality Leitrim Co-Lead (2015) during the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum. He helped set-up 8 Rays Leitrim – Leitrim’s first LGBTI+ community and social group (2011-2022).
He currently serves as secretary of Leitrim Pride Festival and is one of the founding members of Sligo Pride Festival (2019-2021). In 2020, he joined the steering group of FULL SPECTRUM IRELAND: Disabled LGBTI+ Peer Network as the acting-chair.

Niall joins the ILMI team as a Community Development Worker helping to develop Full Spectrum Ireland as an independent project for Disabled LGBTI+ people on the island of Ireland. Full Spectrum Ireland provides the perfect opportunity to develop intersectional voices as disabled and LGBTI+ people come together to voice their experiences.
Niall is trained as a sexual health promoter with qualifications from the Foundational Programme in Sexual Health Promotion (FPSHP) run by the HSE and HIV Ireland’s ‘Let’s Talk About… Safer Sex!” training for trainers programme.

Isabel Keane

Social Media (part-time)

Isabel joined ILMI in January 2022. She is a graduate of NUI Galway with a degree in sociology and politics and French. She is the brand ambassador for Izzy Wheels which makes stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs so that wheelchair users can jazz up their medical devices. 

She is extremely passionate about shedding a light on the lack of disability representation in the media. She (alongside her older sister Ailbhe) has had the oportunity to educate non- disabled people in positions of power  (such as EU representatives, journalists and fashion designers) about the importance of disability representation within all sectors of society. 

Isabel is absolutely thrilled to now be working with ILMI on their social media campaigns alongside Nina Byrne as she is a self-confessed social media addict and she identifies so much with the ethos and aims of the organisation. She first became aware of ILMI in 2019 after attending a disability conference in Croke Park where she met James Casey whom she ended up sitting beside on the train back to Galway. Her mind was blown after those 2 and half hours being educated by James about the vast array of things ILMI does for disabled people. She knew from that day on that she wanted to become involved with ILMI in some way and now (after getting the minor detail of her degree out of the way) she is doing just that!

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