The Irish Blind Sports going for gold

In the heart of Christchurch, there is an organisation whose focus revolves solely around the eyes.

Irish Blind Sports (IBS) is an organisation that was created to help offer people who suffer from visual disabilities easy access into competitive and recreational sports.

Irish Blind Sport’s office administrator Pam Robinson describes their work:

“Irish Blind Sports was setup to facilitate people with a visual defect to participate in sports or recreational activities of their choice.”

It began on Saturday the 26th of November, 1988 at an open meeting at Dublin’s North Star Hotel.  Since then, it has grown into a beacon for the blind community that have relished to opportunity to participate in sports with their peers.

For some, they even go on and compete in tournaments all over the world.

Margaret Lacey has represented Ireland at several international competitions

“We currently have 150 active members, but have previously had as many as 450 people who have registered at one stage with IBS, so we are hoping to see membership begin to rise again in the future,” said Ms Robinson.

According to Irish Blind Sports, organised sport for blind and visually impaired has roots in Ireland back as far as the 1920’s.  The playing fields and halls of two schools for the blind situated in Dublin, St. Josephs’s and St. Mary’s, were the location for events almost a century ago.

The IBS is the National Governing Body for sport and leisure activities for blind and visually impaired people in Ireland, yet funding is a very complex issue with funds coming from multiple sources.

“We receive the majority of our funding from the government through the Irish Sports Council. About 40 per cent of our funding comes from there,” said Ms Robinson.

“The National Council for the Blind also assists with funding.  We are also associated with two football groups.  FIFA give some funding.  The rest would have to come from membership fees and fundraisers”

In relation to future fundraisers there was “no specific fundraisers planned” but there were various ideas.

“We are hoping to organise something with the Laughter Lounge.  Another possibility is a sporting event.  There is a lecturer in UCD who is associated with us who may be able to organise a sports event to help with additional fundraising.”

Despite Ireland suffering a terrible financial turmoil, the Irish Blind Sports has “not been directly affected” by the economic trouble.

And even though the organisation was without an administrator for a prolonged period of time, the organisation has remained stable. Ms Robinson said “the lack of an administrator was probably the main reason for a drop-off in members.

The recession may affect some of the more expensive recreational sports.  The climbing wall and water skiing are some of the most popular sports.

Waterskiing is one of the many sports IBS organises for it's members

We pay part and then the person pays the other part, so that may have an effect but there has not been a direct affect to the IBS.”

Withstanding some shaky moments, the purpose at the heart of the organisation has been fulfilled with more than 100 people with visual impairments finding joy in sporting activities and some finding even more.

Speaking about some of the IBS members Ms Robinson happily said that “We currently have 5 members who have definitely qualified for the Paralympics, which is great.  We also have another five who are hoping to qualify as well.”

With regards to the future, Ms Robinson was optimistic that things are heading up for the IBS and its members. She stated that the IBS “is launching our strategic plan on the 31st of April at our AGM.”

It is easy to recognize that the IBS is an organisation that has its head and heart in the right place.


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