Interns create world first as they get their first taste of work in Leinster House

Oireachtas Work and Learn programme a first for people with intellectual disabilities

 Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl  with Peter Finnegan, Clerk of Dail Éireann, and interns from the Oireachtas Work and Learn (OWL) Programme. Photograph: Maxwells

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl with Peter Finnegan, Clerk of Dail Éireann, and interns from the Oireachtas Work and Learn (OWL) Programme. Photograph: Maxwells

 

A new internship programme in the Houses of the Oireachtas tailored towards people with intellectual disabilities officially launched on Tuesday, making it the first such programme of its kind.

The Oireachtas Work and Learn (OWL) Programme provides year-long internships for 10 young people with intellectual disabilities across different Oireachtas departments. The initiative was developed and organized in collaboration with KARE and WALK, two organisations assisting people with intellectual disabilities.

Organisers believe OWL is the first internship for people with intellectual disabilities in any of the world’s parliaments.

The HSE have provided funding for the programme’s two on-site coordinators, who will support the interns in their roles and help them work towards obtaining qualifications from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), a Department of Education and Skills agency.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl officially launched the internship programme in Leinster House, and said that the initiative is, “vital if we are to harness the talent of people from all sections of society and a diverse workplace benefits us all.”

“For some of the interns, this is their first taste of what work is like,” said WALK Director of Services Catherine Kelly at Tuesday’s launch, later adding that she expected each trainee to, “grow in confidence, develop relationships and networks, and contribute as an equal citizen,” throughout the programme.

OWL participant Kenny Delahunt spoke on behalf of the selected interns at the programme’s launch, stating that both he and his fellow interns were, “here in the project because we want to get real experience of what it is like to have a real job.”

The programme aims to provide work experience for people with intellectual disabilities, as well opportunities for paid employment afterwards, according to KARE Operations Manager Peter Furlong, who said that for interns, “the object of the exercise is to increase their skills and competencies so that they will be ready to take up competitive paid employment when they graduate.”