All welcome as deaf village opens its doors
Deaf Village Ireland , Cabra, Dublin, was officially opened by Leo Varadkar, TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Photograph: Chris Bellew/Fennells
The village is open to the local community - the support of which will be essential to the facility's long-term viability.
New village includes sports centre, swimming pool, conference facilities, offices, classrooms, a chapel, a social lounge and a cafe, writes JOHN CRADDEN
For a state-of-the-art sports and social complex, the choice of name is a bold one. Yet there it is, in huge letters above the entrance: Deaf Village Ireland. Located off the Ratoath Road in Cabra, Dublin, it’s very much open to the local community and, indeed, that patronage will be essential to the facility’s long-term viability.
It features a state-of-the-art sports centre and swimming pool, conference facilities, meeting rooms, several offices, classrooms, a chapel, a social lounge and a cafe.
Just before it opened for business at the end of last month, the facility’s developers, the Catholic Institute for Deaf People (CIDP), ran a naming competition within the deaf community in a bid to come up with an alternative – perhaps more neutral – name for the €15 million facility.
But the “deaf village” tag clearly stuck, and Deaf Village Ireland (DVI) it was. It suggests a new confidence among members of the signing deaf community, and implies that they are very much in charge here.
But are they? According to Liam O’Dwyer, the chief executive of the CIDP, there are currently two boards of management: a subsidiary board of the CIDP that was set up to build the centre and which runs the sports centre, and a newer, independent board that runs the whole of DVI.
The majority of seats on the independent board are filled by deaf people, while the subsidiary CIDP board is 50:50 deaf and hearing. The aim is that the independent board will eventually take over the running of everything, including the sports centre. “The strategy of the DVI was to enable and encourage the deaf community to manage its own business,” he said.
More input and control
At the old deaf club in Drumcondra, which was sold in 2008, “the deaf community was the tenant, but CIDP owned and ran the place. Now, at Deaf Village Ireland, the deaf community owns and runs the place, and CIDP is one of the tenants”.
Those who work for different deaf organisations now based in the DVI agree that the deaf community has been given substantially more input and control over the facility, and it marks a very significant change to allowing the development to become a truly community-led enterprise.
Kevin Stanley, founder of disability organisation Inclusive Enterprises and a consultant to the village project, says that, before 2006, there was little communication between the deaf community and the CIDP management. “We didn’t even know who the chairman was. We didn’t even know who was on the board.”
He credits the appointment of Fr Michael Cullen as chairman in 2006 as the start of the change. Some independent research into the problems with the organisation was commissioned, for which the overwhelming feedback from the deaf community was scathing.
“A lot of deaf people in the deaf community were really frustrated and angry with CIDP because they felt like it controlled the deaf community,” he says.
Stanley believes there is still some way to go before CIDP hands over complete responsibility, but Sylvia Nolan, the manager of DVI, says it’s unrealistic to expect so much change overnight.
Privately voiced concerns
“It’s hard for them to step back, because they have done a lot,” she says. “I can see it myself, as I am working here all the time. It will take time. At the same time, I have to applaud the CIDP because they are stepping back and letting go. It’s slowly, but surely. But it’s difficult for them, and to achieve a balance as well.”