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Welcome to the October 2nd ILMI eBulletin


What's In This Issue:


We are Hiring  

ONSIDE Project Community Navigator County Monaghan (part-time Maternity Cover) read more

ILMI Strategies for Change project worker read more

Last night what a night 

Photo shows a photo of Clara Holmes

On October 1st ILMI was extremely thrilled to have Clara Holmes join us as our guest for the third online ILMI Social night. Clara is a fashion and lifestyle model and influencer working with some of the biggest brands, publications, and campaigns such as Women's Health, Fabulous Magazine, TKMaxx, New Balance, and many more. She aligns with likeminded brands and media to share her values, spirit, and positivity. As a vegan and gluten-free Clara and is also very passionate about health, wellbeing, animal rights, and her imprint on the planet.

Through her blog, Rollin’ Funky, she charts her adventures in fashion – “I am more than my pain and my wheelchair. I am a woman with dreams, aspirations and desires just like the next person.”

A huge thank you to everyone that attended and a special thank you to the ILMI staff team who worked tirelessly to get this Social Night together. Shelly Gaynor and Orla Beirne created and curated an evening that many people not only thoroughly enjoyed but also got a lot out of, including the amazing Clara herself.


Photo shows Keepin’ It Wheel with Maryam graphic

Keepin’ It Wheel with Maryam
The Disabled Body Beautiful

“I am never going to conform to society's requirements and I'm thrilled because I am blissfully released from all that crap. That's the liberation of disfigurement.”
– From the Book “The Sexual Politics of Disability”, by Tom Shakespeare et al.

I know I wasn’t the only one who seriously enjoyed last night’s chat with Clara, a disabled BIPOC fashion model and blogger who runs the Rollin Funky blog and Instagram page. This woman is glamorous, vivacious, and has a massive collection of HIGH HEEL shoes- yes, that’s right. As a wheelchair user, she is at an advantage on the runway; she doesn’t need to worry about stumbling. 

I have never worn high heels in my life. The appeal of Carrie Bradshaw’s stocked closet was always lost on me, and with it, a seeming rite of passage to womanhood. Can you be sexy if you will never walk like Rihanna?

Fashion and the cultural norms represented by it have an inescapable hold- somehow it was not until I was 26, after finally ditching the perpetual runners I’d had since childhood for knee-high boots and Doc Martens, when I realised how infantilised I had felt- shoes.

I had come to see my disability as liberating me from the shackles of societal beauty expectations. While able-bodied teens around me were developing eating disorders in their pursuit of the perfect body, I was released from suffering the illusion that my body could ever conform to such ideals represented in the media. Having a disability helped me see through the bullshit. I had to stand firm in my belief that there was no such thing as the perfect body and that all bodies were beautiful by virtue of being spirit incarnate. “And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?” as Whitman my saviour sang.

And yet such media representations of able-bodied beauty are insidious. That’s why we need people like Clara making sure we are represented and seen in this sphere, which also extends to the runway of life. When we are seen truly embracing our bodies, our mere presence and existence is defiant in and of itself. When we love our bodies despite being told otherwise, we liberate others from these misconceptions.

As Clara said last night: “I think it’s important to embrace your body and have self-love for your body. A lot of the time when we hear about body positivity we hear it in relation to size- we don’t necessarily hear it in relation to different aspects of ability. Sometimes people automatically think that if you are differently abled you can’t be body positive and you can’t have self-love. I think it’s not true, it’s society’s ideas, this wanting to fix something, and make you feel like you’re not worth gold, and you most certainly are. You are everything that you are, and you do not need to be fixed.”
Written by Maryam Madani ILMI staff team member

Photo shows the Poster for Christian O'Reilly's play "Sanctuary"


ILMI is extremely excited and proud to have writer Christian O’Reilly (‘Inside I’m Dancing’, ‘Sanctuary’) as the star guest for our next Social Night. Christian joins ILMI's Peter Kearns & Dr James Casey on the 15th October. The one-hour questions & answers discussion will be about Christian's exciting new theatre projects concerned with disability themes, such as the ILMI supported NO MAGIC PILL, connected with the early years of Centre for Independent Living (CIL). If you would like to be part of this event please register as places will be snapped up, simply email

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PAS Now!

Clare Disabled People Call for Recognition of their
Right to Access Personal Assistance Services

The Clare Leader Forum are supporting a campaign to legislate for the right to Personal Assistance Services (PAS) in Ireland. Clare native, and CLF member, Ann Marie Flanagan is one of thousands of disabled people who live independently thanks to Personal Assistance Services. However, that service can be removed at any time as unbelievably PAS in Ireland is still operating as a pilot project and not legislated for as a basic human right. It’s provision is dependent upon funding and access to the service can be removed at any time.

“Independent Living, which is underpinned by Personal Assistance Services, is about having the freedom to have the same choices that everyone else has in housing, transportation, education and employment. It is about choosing what aspects of social, economic and political life I want to participate in. Independent Living is about having control over my life, to have a family, to get a job, to participate socially and to realise my goals and dreams. I am a partner, mother, friend and employee all thanks to my use of Personal Assistance Services. Without PAS I could not continue to be a contributing member of society. I could not live, I would simply exist ” explains Ms. Flanagan.

Ann Marie is an active member of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), which is a Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) that is calling on the Government to finally recognise all our rights to live independent lives with the support of PAS. Through her work with the Clare Leader Forum she has this month seen Clare County Council unanimously pass a Motion supporting that right. “The importance of Clare Local Authority supporting our vision of an Ireland where we have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of our lives should not be underestimated. We thank Councillor Joe Killeen for proposing the Motion and Clare Local Authority for passing it. Unfortunately, I have experienced the devastating impact of having my PAS removed, without due consultation or notice. The memory of that moment will resonate with me forever. By recognising my right to PAS, at all levels of the political spectrum, I am hopeful that no other individual will ever have to experience that”, added Ms. Flanagan.

Ann Marie clarified that this is only a step in the campaign to finally having our human rights recognised. ‘This Motion passed in Dáil Eireann on the 19th November, having been brought before government by Deputy Thomas Pringle. Since then numerous Local Authorities across Ireland have voted to support it. As such this reaffirms that PAS, which support us to live independent lives should finally be legislated for as a right. The Clare Leader Forum will continue in our fight for that right to be formally recognised by working with ILMI on their PAS Now campaign over the coming months”. 

For more information on the ILMI #PASNOW Campaign visit ILMI or follow our  Facebook  or Twitter @ILMIreland

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Women's Group

Photo shows a graphic for the ILMI Women's group

ILMI as a solidarity hub continually strives to push boundaries and strengthen our diverse online platforms How do we do that?  By responding to our members ideas and building safe spaces for freedom of expression. We’d like to highlight our Women’s group, which has been successfully running for a while now and its power housing members go from strength to strength. It cannot be emphasised enough that when like-minded people come together to tease out everything from the common issues, our hopes and dreams for the future and life in general, then great things can happen. “It’s a safe confidential space where you can be among your fellow peers to discuss an array of topics from COVID-19 to leisure activities in a very informal zoom. Where everyone’s voice is heard and listened to. Why not drop by and enjoy the craic and banter that only your girl friends will get” said ILMI’s staff member Shelly Gaynor who heads up the project.
Do you want more information contact:
The ILMI Women’s next Group meet:  Tuesday 8th October 7pm

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ILMI Online Platforms

Photo shows a photo of Marcus Ward.

"My name is Marcus Ward and I'm from Donegal. I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus and I use a wheelchair to get around. As of this year I hold a degree in Spanish and French from the Open University. I just completed the degree in May, almost six years after I began my distance learning journey. The Open University offered me the flexibility to study at my own pace and in my own time. For this reason, it is a university that I would highly recommend for anyone with any kind of impairment.

Earlier this year, ILMI asked me to facilitate a number of online Spanish classes via Zoom. I had never been asked to do something like that before and so I was nervous at the idea. However, I knew it would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase my teaching abilities. I also knew that the ethos of ILMI was one that I truly believed in and so I had no doubt that they would help me to run the classes in a professional and inclusive manner that would be beneficial to ILMI’s members. The chance to do something productive for disabled people who were looking to try something new in these difficult times was something I simply could not turn down.
Another aspect that resonated with me while teaching the sessions was from a human rights point of view. During the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people have, for various reasons, often felt isolated and lonely. I have spoken to friends of mine who have had to cocoon due to having underlying illnesses. Restrictions put in place have also made it more difficult to attend events or gatherings that would normally been an outlet for disabled people. Running this class gave ILMI members a worthwhile yet fun activity to look forward to, if even for just one hour every week. "

Written by Marcus Ward

ILMI online spaces include peer support and platforms to discuss policy, activism as well as more creative spaces for example our film club. There are county-specific discussion spaces for disabled people in Clare, Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Longford, Cavan and Monaghan with more coming on stream in the near future. By listening to disabled people, ILMI have responded quickly to fulfil the need for real connection and over the past few months we have also held workshops on topics such as mindfulness, yoga, nutrition, independent living, effectively managing a Personal Assistance Service (PAS), photography and drawing.

In the middle of a pandemic disabled people are coming together and making ILMI their solidarity hub. Please keep in touch via our social media and eBulletin for updates there will be something there for everyone all you have to do is jump on board. Together we are stronger. Together you are never alone.

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Photo shows the ONSIDE logo.


Enniskillen Co. Fermanagh provided a safe Covid-19 sanctuary for a creative border meeting between Peter Kearns, who is ILMI's cross border project Coordinator, and Dr Emma O'Neill from our EU project partner NI Disability Action. Peter and Emma have designed a series of free workshops to begin in early 2021 to give disabled adults in border counties the opportunity to share their lived experience stories through creative writing, photography and video.
The stories will be published and exhibited on a brand new inter-active cross border website being developed by the ONSIDE project. ONSIDE is an Irish and UK border county Digital training and Social Inclusion project aimed at disabled adults and young people (16+). ILMI is a partner in the disability equality led project designed to improve the health and well-being of disabled people through increased social and digital involvement in their community. The cross border project runs until summer 2022 and is delivered with ILMI's Team of five Community Navigators & Mentors (see contacts below) in partnership with Northern Ireland's Disability Action, IT trainers Supporting-Communities and the NI Housing Executive.
The early 2022 creative blended workshops facilitated by ILMI's Peter will be on Zoom and at Covid-19 secured community centres on both sides of the border and the stories and photographs/video will feed into the research element of the ONSIDE project. The ONSIDE research, led by Dr O'Neill, is already being steered and conducted by participants on ILMI's Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan and Louth county project platforms who have lived experience of disability. Peter and Emma want to focus on how disabled people have resolved challenges and barriers they may have faced previously, this will help inform our ILMI and NI partners research which will in turn inform and empower others in similar situations.
For anybody in the border area who might want to tell their story through creative writing or photography or video...OR all three creative methods, contact Dr Emma O’Neill. Emma has created a team of Peer Action Researchers, who have lived experience of disability and is inviting you to share your personal story about resolving disability related barriers. You can do so two ways:
Fill out a quick survey   or contact Emma directly to set up a 1-2-1 interview at a time and in medium that suits you best T: 077 8646 0071 or E:
Or reach out to the community navigator in your region.

Donegal: Orla Beirne, 0870559725,

Sligo / Leitrim: Fiona Brennan, 0873495905,

Cavan: Mark McCollum, 087 721 8067,

Monaghan / Louth: Clive Lowry, 0879650576,

Photo is of Dr Emma O'Neill with the quote "Peer research- sharing your personal story is a way to use your experience to inform and empower others".



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