‘Lack of insight’ concerning those with disabilities

Progress needed on deficit in supports across many countries, says Special Olympics chief

Team Ireland’s medal tally at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi has risen to more than 70. Video: Sarah Burns


There remains a shortfall in knowledge and understanding of people with disabilities in some countries, the chief executive of the Special Olympics has said.

Mary Davis said she felt she would have the opportunity no matter where she was based “to live my life to the best of my ability but I never feel that confident that people with intellectual disability have that same opportunity”.

“We’re lacking still in many countries the supports that are needed, the training, the changing of systems,” she said.

“If you look at health, changing training for clinicians and professionals and physicians . . . changing laws. We need to pay more attention to that if we want to give people with intellectual disability the supports they need to live their life to the best of their ability.”

Ms Davis said she had been “really impressed” at the level of inclusivity shown at the World Games in Abu Dhabi and that she would love to see the event return to Ireland following the success of the 2003 occasion in Dublin.

“It would also be amazing to to see what Ireland is like now in comparison to what it was like then.”

Larger nations

Matt English, chief executive of Special Olympics Ireland, said he believed Ireland would host the World Games again but that the cost of doing so, which amounted to €60 million in 2003, would likely be well above €100 million now.

He also said it was important that larger nations had an opportunity to host the games to encourage participation by athletes.

“The whole of the UK has the same number of athletes training as Ireland with so much more population,” he said. “I think it’s really important that the other countries, that they host a games, because what those countries need is a huge legacy like Ireland have got.

“So if I was sitting on top of the organisation I would be saying strategically what’s the right thing, how can we influence more, because our Irish programme is so strong already.”