A view of the Lough Ree Access for All boat before its first test trials
Volunteers behind a €200,000 ‘Access for All Boat’ aimed at providing outdoor recreational pursuits for wheelchair users are hoping to provide alternative employment to dozens of ex Bord na Mona workers.
The first test trials on the new cruiser, which was engineered in Estonia, took place last Tuesday with Drumlish native James Cawley of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) and the Irish Wheelchair Association’s (IWA) Sean Carthy being among its first passengers.
And, according to Lough Ree Hub’s Development Officer Ciaran Mullooly, the occasion could not have gone much better.
“The boys had a ball,” he said.
“They were able to go down the ramp and roll on and roll off. That’s the beauty of the boat, there is no hoisting or lifting, you get on and off under your own steam.”
Having already managed to procure 75 per cent of the project’s overall funding via the EU’s LEADER programme and through Department of Sport capital grants, the group have also conjured up €16,000 locally by way of local fundraising.
It’s now hoped the body will be given the go-ahead from the Department of Community and Rural Affairs for a Community Services Programme Scheme (CSP) to be rolled out with a view to reskilling a handful of former Bord na Mona workers.
“We have applied to try and get a scheme up and running where we can employ a manager and up to five workers on a full time basis,” added Mr Mullooly.
“It’s hoped that through that at least two of those will be ex Bord na Mona workers.”
RTÉ’s Midlands correspondent said the move had received the endorsement of local TD’s Joe Flaherty (Fianna Fáil), Peter Burke (Fine Gael) and Sorcha Clarke (Sinn Féin) as well as Senator Micheal Carrigy (Fine Gael).
“At the minute, the boat is parked up in the marina and while we would love to have it out full time, at the moment we can’t as we just haven’t the resources in place,” he added, noting however that the group remained “hopeful” their application to government bosses would be successful.