In many respects when I was first appointed to the position of Chairperson to
the then named Catholic Institute for the Deaf by the Archbishop of Dublin in 2001, this was the Chairpersons
Statement I had hoped and planned to write in the future. It is with great joy that I can reflect on
the opening of Deaf Village Ireland and Inspire Fitness Centre.
After years of consultation, discussion and planning, Deaf Village Ireland and Inspire Fitness Centre have become realities and were opened to the general public and Deaf community in September 2012. There were critical milestones in the development of Deaf Village Ireland, the strategy report developed following consultation with the Deaf community by Philip Ryan which set out the future vision. The coming together of a new Board of Directors with strong Deaf representation and a high level of competency among the Directors. The appointment of a new CEO and Head of Finance to drive the project and the organisation. The support of the Archbishop of Dublin in agreeing to sell St. Vincent’s Centre Drumcondra and use the funds generated to create a new and permanent home for the Deaf community in Ireland together with the grant given by the Government in 2011 enabled the project proceed. The use by the project team of advisors and outside community development professionals from Community Action Network and Deaf community expertise from Gallaudet University in Washington in the design of an inclusive state of the art facility which the Deaf community would experience as their home base was very significant. All of these ingredients have come together to deliver the vision.
Deaf Village Ireland is of course far more than simply a building project, it is primarily a community development project. It is about ensuring that what was built met the needs of the Deaf community and could be managed and operated by the Deaf community. The setting up of the National Deaf Village Sports and Leisure Company Limited under the Chairmanship of Kevin Lynch was key to this, especially as this company with its majority of Deaf Directors took on the coordination of the construction and have now taken on the management and operation of the Inspire Fitness Centre. The setting up of Deaf Village Ireland Limited, an independent Deaf led company to manage and operate the Village was even more significant given that each Deaf organisation based in the Village nominated a Director to the Board of Deaf Village Ireland Limited. Both of these structures are working efficiently to ensure that the Village is open to all but in a manner which respects and gives priority to the needs, especially, the communication needs of Deaf people. Critical to this development is the sustainability of both Deaf Village Ireland and the success of the Inspire Fitness Centre. Early indications are good especially in respect to the Inspire Fitness Centre in terms of general public and Deaf community support via memberships. The internal team managing and operating Inspire Fitness Centre deserve much credit for the promising start.
During 2012 there have been other significant developments with the initial dialogue with the Department of Education taking place in relation to the amalgamation of St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s schools. While this will take some time to bring to a conclusion, the plan to amalgamate the schools into one Centre of Deaf Education Excellence is materialising.
The organisation and redevelopment of St. Mary’s residence for Deaf Girls was completed in 2012 and the residence is now what we had always hoped for, a boarding school residence and a home from home for the girls with a strong emphasis on education and personal development. This is reflected in the increased number of girls now in the residence. CIDP itself has itself had to fund this redevelopment.
St. Joseph’s House Brewery road provides an excellent service to its residents, a recent HCI independent report found that the standard of care and service in St. Joseph’s House was at a very high level as a result of the reorganisation and redevelopment work instigated and paid for by CIDP during the last two years. It is encouraging to visit St. Joseph’s House and witness firsthand the quality of the communication and the care. It is clearly a place Deaf and DeafBlind people feel at home and can develop as people living both in a community and independently. St. Joseph’s House Brewery road financially remains a concern to CIDP given that the HSE are not funding St. Joseph’s House to meet the new regulatory standards the HSE have set and continue not to fund adequately the day to day operation of the residence which has resulted in a loss of €84,738 for 2012. CIDP a voluntary organisation has now once again to pick this up on top of a cumulative €760,000 deficit over the past 6 years not including the reorganisation costs of St. Joseph’s House borne again by CIDP.
We have approached the HSE to seek appropriate funding and are greatly encouraged in this endeavour by the support from all the Deaf organisations in DVI for the continuation of the unique services provided by St. Joseph’s House Brewery road. A review of the service and infrastructure of St. Joseph’s residence for Deaf Boys attending the school began in 2012. This will be completed in 2013 and a redevelopment programme should be underway by the end of 2013.
CIDP acts as the trustee of both St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s schools for Deaf Boys and Girls and is very proud of the achievements of both schools during 2012. The academic results of both schools at Junior and Leaving Certificate and FETAC levels mark these schools out as being unique among specialist schools over and above the academic developments. The outstanding production of the Sound of Music and the Helix performance of the St. Mary’s choir are significant achievements this year. My sincere congratulations to both schools.
The Deaf Education Centre has developed at a fast pace with a new website, the completion of the Shared Reading Project, the specification of the requirements for a new Preschool which will open in 2013 and proposals for a new early intervention and assessment centre. Work is continuing on the access of Deaf students to primary teacher training college and on setting out the parameters for a research project on the outcomes for Deaf and hard of hearing students in mainstream schools.
The Chaplaincy service has developed strongly during 2013. The new offices and the beautiful new Chapel at the heart of Deaf Village Ireland are a great tribute to the service. The Chaplains facilitated the participation of Deaf community in the Eucharistic Conference during the summer of 2012. The high profile presence of the Chaplaincy service and the Deaf community was much commented upon and it put the Deaf community at the heart of the Conference in terms of participation and showed the possibilities for the inclusion of Deaf people in a positive light to civil society.
The Chaplains have provided a sustained service to the Deaf community around the country through their offices in Northern Ireland and in Munster via locally based Chaplains and to Dublin / Leinster and the West of Ireland via the two Dublin based Chaplains. The mark of the successful nature of the Chaplaincy service is that it is seen as a part of the Deaf community not an outside added extra.
The finances of CIDP have come under pressure with the completion of the Deaf Village Ireland project, the redevelopment of the residences and the continued operational loss of St. Joseph’s House Brewery road. The audited accounts show that CIDP itself operated at a loss of €338,150 as did St. Mary’s residence Cabra (€4,206). St. Joseph’s residence Cabra (€4,231) and St. Joseph’s House Brewery road (€84,738). This leads to a cumulative loss for 2012 of €431,325.
The final account for the construction of Deaf Village Ireland is not yet ready but will be signed off and completed by the end of 2013.
The focus for 2013 and beyond will be the continued development of Inspire Fitness Centre, the amalgamation of the schools and the financial security of St. Joseph’s House Brewery road.
On behalf of the Archbishop of Dublin and myself I would like to place on the record my appreciation of the Board of Directors of CIDP. Not only have the Directors worked as part of the Board of CIDP on a voluntary basis but also many of the Board have given their time to the Audit Committee, Finance Committee, Residential Review Committee and to the Board of the National Deaf Village Sports and Leisure Company Limited. I also want to acknowledge a number of Board Directors who have given service for many years and in 2012 left the Board namely Regina O’Connell, Maura Buckley, Fr. Joe Jones and Ann McNicholas.
Also very special thanks to the CIDP staff especially the CEO and Head of Finance who have both put in an amazing year in 2012 to ensure that the Deaf Village Ireland project and the Inspire Fitness Centre were delivered on time and create a home for the Deaf community in Ireland.