There are approximately five thousand people who are amputees or have limb deformity in Ireland today. While competitions such as The Paralympics or the increased focus on amputees in the Irish media means now amputees have role models to look up to. Some of these are:
Rick Allen is the drummer in the band Def Leppard which has sold over €12 million albums. Rick moved to Ireland in 1984. On New Years Eve 1984 he lost control of his car. He was thrown from the car because his seatbelt had been improperly fastened and this caused his left arm to be severed. His right shoulder was also severely broken in the accident. It was widely thought that his career as a drummer would be over. In 1986, Following a year of rehabilitation Rick was ready to perform with the band again. He is ranked No. 7 on the UK website Gigwise in The Greatest Drummers of All Time list and he played on their successful 1987 album. Rick also co-founded The Raven Drum Foundation, with a mission to serve, educate, and empower veterans and people in crisis. He was awarded the Humanitarian Award by Maria Shriver’s Best Buddies of CA in 2002 and in 2012 and was also awarded the prestigious Wounded Warrior Project’s Carry It Forward Award.
When Louise was 17, her right foot was amputated and in a recent Irish Times Interview she says “from that point, the distances I could walk shortened at such a frightening pace that it felt like I was being stripped of my youth… I always thought that using a wheelchair would limit me but instead it opened up the world to me’. The founder of the blog ‘Legless in Dublin’, Louise uses her blog”‘to detail the levels of wheelchair friendliness in restaurants, cafés, bars, hotels, shops, cinemas, parks and pretty much anywhere I visit”. Now using a bespoke prosthetic that she calls ‘Priscilla’, Louise says “Priscella didn’t cost an arm and a leg, just a foot”. Louise is an accomplished speaker, giving talks on what it’s like to be a wheelchair user in Ireland. ‘I’ve been using a wheelchair for seven years now and it’s only now that I know what freedom really means. In many ways I’m still recovering from my last years of using crutches. While I’m still fighting for improved access and equality for disabled people, I’ve created a new identity for myself’.
Founded in 2011, the team is exclusively for Outfield players may have two hands but only one leg. Goalkeepers may have two feet but only one hand and games are 2 halves of 25 minutes each, with rolling substitutions. The game is played by 6 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper and all players must be on crutches to make it a level playing field. The team aims to develop a National Irish Amputee Football league, to promote and develop the sport of Amputee Football in Ireland and to help towards the further development of persons interested in Amputee Football across Ireland. Training sessions are available to males and females of all ages and backgrounds. One of 31 national amputee football associations across the world the team has competed at World and European Championships
Jimmy was born in 1936 and when he was 14 years old he was in a workplace accident that resulted in one of his arms being amputated. Not giving up on his love of football he started playing for his local team Newry Town FC. Being impressed by the prolific striker, the Chairman of Dundalk Town FC, Jim Malon went to his board to purchase him. The board refused to purchase a player missing an arm, so the Chairman wrote a personal cheque and bought him for the club himself. Jimmy scored 103 goals over six seasons. In 1963, he helped Dundalk win the League of Ireland, ending a 30-year wait. Jimmy was then a victim of the troubles in 1974, when he was murdered. The UVF claimed responsibility.
Ellen was born with an undeveloped left arm and competes in the Paralympics as an amputee. According to The Paralympics website ‘Ellen Keane was Ireland’s youngest ever athlete when she swam in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. At just 13 years old, she competed impressively, placing sixth in the 100m breaststroke. At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, she made three finals and her best finish was in the 100m Butterfly final. In 2013, she progressed to reach her first major international podium when she claimed two bronze medals at the IPC World Championships in Montreal’. She gave a TEDx Talk later that year entitled ‘My Lucky Fin’ where Ellen described how growing up she was ashamed of her underdeveloped arm and how she would never go outside without long sleeves for fear of being teased. The talk now has over 7,600 views on Youtube. In 2018, Allianz Insurance were announced as the Dublin 2017 World Para-Swimming European Championships sponsor. Ellen became a brand ambassador for Allianz and appeared as the ‘Face of The Games’ on a widely publicised campaign.
Born with Ellis-Van Creveld Syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs Brendan came through the ranks of the Carton House Golf Club. Brendan was Ireland’s top pitch and putt playerr at under 16’s 17’s and 18’s before entering top ranked amateur competitions. Having worked on lengthening his drive which due to his size was an impediment, Darren Clarke said he was amazed at his pitch and putt play which compensated for his lack of strength. Brendan says he prefers match-play format as his opponents believe that it will be an easy victory only for Brendan to prove them wrong.
David was born with a bone defect condition, arthrogryposis. At the age of 8 David had both of his legs amputated. In a recent interview David said ‘My friend took up swimming and I reluctantly joined them down in the local pool in Dundrum’. At 16 he competed in the inaugural world championships in Malta, in the 100m backstroke. David won medals for Ireland in Paralympics, World Championships and European Championships. He won gold at the 2000 Paralympics and held the world record for 100m backstroke for ten years. David competed for Ireland as a Para-swimmer at the Atlanta Olympics in 1994 until the Athens Olympics in 2004. Later he was appointed to the position of Head of Irish Paralympic Swimming. His appointment was from 2009 until after The London Olympic Games of 2012. Ireland won 14 medals and the medal haul has only grown since David took up the position. In early 2015 Dave was appointed as the operational lead of Paralympics Ireland’s Sport Department. He was an integral member of the team that brought the World European Para-Athletic Championships to Dublin in 2018.
Daráine developed meningitis when she was 16 and was given the last rights by a priest. After a series of complications, including septicaemia, liver and kidney failure, blood poisoning, pneumonia and gangrene, her doctors told her parents she had less than a 10 percent chance of survival. Daráine was placed into a medically induced coma and she had both of her legs and some fingers amputated. Daráine received seven A’s in the Leaving Cert then studied Communications in DCU, and began working in RTE. Daráine was chosen by Channel 4 as one of their presenting team for the London Paralympics in 2012, having worked largely as a researcher and presenter on RTÉ children’s programmes until then. The success of that experience led to further work with Channel 4 and with the BBC. Daráine was then announced as the lead presenter and the face of RTÉ’s Paralympics coverage in 2016. Daráine was announced the winner of The Irish Person of the Year award in 2001. President Mary McAlease appointed Daráine to The Irish Council of State in 2004.
Seonaid was studying for The Leaving Cert and was in a fire “I owe my life to a young firefighter, Vincent Daly, who climbed into the room and discovered me on the floor. My heart wasn’t beating, I wasn’t breathing, so I was revived on the front lawn in front of my brother screaming”. After being placed in an induced coma for 3 weeks Seonaid’s mum was told that she would have to have her two legs and arm amputated or she may not make it. Saying “When the choice is your legs or your life, you’re hardly going to choose your legs”. By September Seonaid was repeating her leaving cert. Having qualified from college, Seonaid became a HR administrator with Rehab Group. Seonaid is a founding member of The Amputee Disability Federation Ireland and worked as a board member of Kanchi. In 2012 Seonaid became A Senior Project Coordinator with AHEAD. Seonaid left Ahead and joined The Employer Disability Information Group and is now a self-employed disability consultant and disability advocate.
Joanna is one of seven people in the world living with Total Amelia. Her condition means Joanna was born without all four limbs and can only function through using a wheelchair. Joanne became well known in 2011 for personally challenging An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny not to cut disability funding. The government did cut funding and Joanne was the driving force behind the government eventually backing down. In 2012, Joanne was invited to speak at the UN saying ‘“t is my wish and it’s my challenge to you and to others out there to build me a robot. This robot would become my hands and legs”. After the speech Trinity College Dublin took up the challenge. After a lot of engineering difficulties Joanne got to use a prototype robot in 2014. Joanne had a documentary made about her called ‘No Limbs, No Limits’. Joanne has received The JCI Outstanding Young person award, named Young Person of the Year at the People of the Year Awards, and was the Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s day Parade in Dublin in 2016. She is now a sports writer for the Irish Times.
Born with Dysmelia (a congenital limb deficiency in all four limbs) according to his dad “James responded to an Irish Wheelchair association advertisement for a gala swimming event. With the previous sports not being great successes, James tried swimming and fell in love with the sport instantly”. James went on to say “I would have been 11 or 12 at the time and I only actually swam one race but after that day we created a network of suppor., James has now been to two Paralympics, World Championships, European Championships and is the current Irish champion. James represented Ireland in Rio 2016 games finishing with a personal best. After eight years of competing, James recently retired after the 2018 Dublin European Para-swimming champions saying “It was a beautiful way to finish”. Having completed his degree in Politics in NUIG Maynooth, he completed a diploma in Project Management in IT Blanchardstown as well as a Certificate in Public Procurement in 2018. James first post college position was in Bank of Ireland and most recently James has been working as Tender Analyst in The Department of Government Procurement.
In 2019, then seven year old Saoirse was diagnosed with a Osteosarcoma tumour, a rare form of cancer, in her tibia which resulted in her doing chemotherapy and her leg being amputated. With the help of her parents Saoirse set up a gofundme page to cover the cost of her first and all future prostheics she needs, until she reaches the age of 18. The fundraising including a virtual summerfest which was called ‘Saoirse’s Summerfect’ raised more than enough to cover the prostheics, recovery and any modifications that would be need to be made to the family home. Saoirse and her parents had to decide what charities to send the excess money to. Saoirse appeared on the Late Late Toy Show and took her first steps using her new prosthetic on the Toy Show. and was given the prize of a trip to DisneyLand. Saorise was the perfect person to launch The Toy Show Appeal,which along with other Toy Show stars like Adam King raised over €6.6 million for a number of charities in Ireland.
When Roisín was just 3 years old, she tumbled off the couch and lost the power in her hands. Then they discovered a Chiari Malformation in her brain, this, combined with the tumble caused her spinal cord to swell. Roisín came through the surgery and spent several days in Intensive Care. Roisín is now paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair. In March 2013 Roisín’s lung collapsed and she ended up back in the ICU for twelve days. Roisín first appeared on The Late Late Show in September 2017. Her Mum and Dad Breda and Damien spoke of the difficulty of raising funds for her new wheelchair. Roisínlearnt how to paint just using her mouth and Nissan challenged Roisín to paint a work of art about their cars for their 125th anniversary. Roisín was invited back to the Late Late Show where. Ryan surprised Roisín and her parents by first telling them her artwork would be hung at The National Ploughing Championships, but then presenting the family with a new Nissan that was specially adapted for Rosini.
Born with phocomelia, his legs were short, his feet were splayed outward, and he had three toes on each foot. When Ronán was 20 he got into a car accident which injured his lower back. The back injury meant that he could no longer use the prosthetics he had been using, resulting in Ronán choosing to have an operation to amputate both of his legs below the knee. Ronán also went to Trinity College to study to be a Physician specialising in Orthopaedics and qualifying as a doctor in 1993. Ronán became a Paralympian in 1984 and 1988, in total in his sports career he won 18 gold medals. Ronán was encouraged to develop his singing voice and was a classically trained Tenor. Anthony Kearns, Finbar Wright and Ronán formed a group called The Three (Irish) Tenors. The group has gone on to be one of the most successful singing groups in Irish music history. They have sold millions of records, have been asked to sing in front of 4 American Presidents. The group had played at several of America’s best known events, singing at Cathedrals across the world and Ronán is seen as one of the greatest Tenors in modern history.