‘I love working, because I am a working man’

Ross O’Neill explains why he does not mind having to take three buses to get to work

Ross O'Neill has to take three buses to travel from his family home in Clondalkin to his workplace in Ballymount four mornings a week. But that piecemeal commute to the Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) offices, where he is a junior administrator, doesn't bother him.

“I take my time and I get coffee on the Kylemore Road when I get off the 18,” he says, an ever-smiling presence at the reception desk, where he greets visitors and gets on with his office work.

Ross (35) has worked with the organisation for 10 years and his duties include managing the post and stationery, and looking after all photocopying and scanning. “If there is a meeting on, I will set up the boardroom and the coffee stations,” he says. “But there are loads of things I do here.”

The Monday we meet, for instance, one task is to remind all his colleagues of the weekly staff meeting, “because some of them sometimes forget”.


Special Olympics

“I love working,” he says, “because I am a working man”.

Part of the money he earns he gives to his parents “to pay the bills. Then whatever’s left I will use for spending money for myself – I go to the pictures or go to bowling.”

He is training to compete in 10-pin bowling at the Special Olympics national finals in June. And he has been going out with his girlfriend, Niamh, for the past five years, he says.

One day a week, he volunteers at the Rosscourt Training Centre in Balgaddy, which he used to attend himself, helping out with food preparation. Although that is not something he does at home, he admits.

“Mam has always done it for me, so there’s no point in stopping her doing it now,” he says with a giggle.

Ross has no lack of ambition – his dream is to be CEO of DSI one day.

Meanwhile, he sums himself up as “good to have a laugh with”.

To anybody reading this, he adds: “If you ever want a chat, look me up at this place.”

Parents' view: The commute and work have built up Ross's social skills, say his parents Terry and Mary O'Neill. "He has made some great friendships with his work colleagues; he socialises with them, same as any member of staff in any job." As with any parents, they add, their hope for their son's future career is that he will continue to find his work challenging and rewarding.

Employer's view: "Ross loves coming in here and he adds huge value to the place," says CEO Gary Owens.

Part 1: Working to give people with Down syndrome a meaningful job
Part 2: 'I just love my life . . . the job is important for my confidence'
Part 3: 'It should be the same as for anyone else . . . to be respected as individuals'
Part 4: 'I love working, because I am a working man'

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health, family and parenting