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An Organisation of Disabled People, for Disabled People, by Disabled People.

The Beginning

In the Ireland of the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties, persons with disabilities were not recognised as full members of society; they were not encouraged to participate in mainstream education or to take up employment. It was in these circumstances that a group of disabled people came together to create an organisation to work for and on behalf of persons with disabilities.

The Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland was founded in 1970, but the story of this unique organisation goes back much further; to the births of three remarkable people, in three different counties, drawn together by fate.

Martin Donoghue was born in Cloonrane, Ballindine, Co. Mayo in 1923. He was born into a family of eight and was severely disabled, arms and legs being equally affected. The first six years of his life were spent visiting doctors, specialists and hospitals; all agreed that nothing could be done for him and that he would always require constant care. Nevertheless, he was taught to play the accordion by his family at the age of 4½ years and was educated at home to a high standard. He later studied music, accountancy and business. As there were no opportunities for disabled people in open employment, he earned a living by giving music lessons. He then formed a dance band and again had difficulty convincing musicians that he could make the grade as a band leader; but once again he succeeded and toured Ireland and Britain extensively for several years with his Paramount Showband.

Patrick Grogan was born in Co. Cavan in 1924, one of a family of ten. When very young his family moved to Hollymount Co. Mayo and later to Ballindine. Nobody could have foreseen at that time the great impact he was to have on the fortunes of physically disabled people in Ireland and how this man in later life would become a symbol and pioneer in the cause of the underprivileged in society. Pat had been a steward at Knock Shrine for many years and it was there he learned at first hand the problems faced by the disabled; he vowed that given the opportunity he would help in some organised manner. He did not realise that he himself would become disabled, but fate ordained otherwise and he was to devote the rest of his life to a cause to which he was totally dedicated. Patrick was also a musician.

Ann Moroney was born in Renahamona, Flagmount, Co. Clare in 1932. Ann had cerebral palsy, a condition which affected her lower limbs and left arm and she spent many years in and out of hospital. Medical science could do little for Ann, so she was also educated at home. There was no work for disabled people but Ann was not content to sit at home doing nothing and eventually got a job as a machinist and cutter in a garment factory. The wages were not high, but she was doing a useful job and was independent at last.