Who are we?
Vision Sports Ireland (Vision Sports) is unique in that it is the only organisation in Ireland solely dedicated to promoting sport and recreation for vision impaired people. Indeed, we are the officially registered National Governing Body (NGB) for sport for vision impaired people in Ireland.
We are a not for profit organisation and registered charity, founded in 1988. To view a short video and get a feel for what we’re up to go here.
Vision Sports is affiliated to the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) and is a partner with Paralympics Ireland. We also collaborate with other bodies involved in Disability Sports, including the Irish Wheelchair Association Sports section, Cerebral Palsy Sport, the FAI, Cycling Ireland, Athletics Ireland, Rowing Ireland, Swim Ireland etc. Indeed, we are happy to work with all NGBs, Sports Partnerships as well as all areas of the education and sports sectors in Ireland.
We are very closely associated with all organisations associated with the welfare and wellbeing of people with vision impairment in Ireland. We especially receive resource support from our close partners the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) and ChildVision. Both organisations also have key representatives on the Vision Sports Board of Directors.
Overall responsibility for running Vision Sports Ireland rests with the Board of Directors, all of whom are volunteers. We currently employ one part-time staff member who looks after our office.
Vision Sports is funded principally by the Irish Sports Council. In order to meet our full financial needs, we actively seek public support in fundraising ventures and adventures.
We cover almost every sport imaginable. What we don’t know, we’ll try to find out. In any year we support sport as varied as athletics, Blind Football, Blind Golf, chess, 5-a-side futsal, rowing, swimming, tandem cycling, tenpin bowling, walking and water skiing, to name some. Our annual MayFest – a weekend of multisport come and try and compete. Its a must attend, and even to participate in. Membership of Vision Sports Ireland – for a nominal fee – is required for participation in many events and where becoming involved in the decision making process.
Whatever you wish to know about sport and leisure associated with vision impairment we’re here to help you.
Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles
All blind and visually impaired people in Ireland will enjoy the health benefits derived from regular participation in sport and recreational activities of their choice.
To enable blind and vision impaired people to participate fully in sport and recreational activities of their choice.
Our Guiding Principles
Our Vision and Mission give rise to the following 4 fundamental guiding principles which underpin all our work:
- Each individual should have the same opportunities to participate in sports and recreation. Factors such as visual acuity, disability, gender or religion should not hinder participation.
- Individuals should be enabled to participate at any level, with whatever supports are needed to reach their full potential.
- The benefits of sports and leisure activities for blind and vision impaired people should be promoted to blind and vision impaired people, as well as the community at large.
- The integrity that embraces the very highest standards of ethical behaviour and moral character is expected of anyone acting for, or on behalf of, Vision Sports Ireland.
The 2017/2018 Vision Sports Ireland Board of Directors
Prof. Michael O’Keeffe
Hon. Life President
Brian Allen (ChildVision), Robbie Cousins (PR), Ann Cusack, Barry Ennis, Caroline Fogarty (Governance/legal), Kevin Kelly, Martin Kelly, Patricia McCarthy (Research), Tina Paulick (Social Media), Finbarr Roche (NCBI), Jason Smyth (Director of Strategy and Development), Sandra Watts (Youth Development)
Whether your eyesight is 20/20 or 0 you are most welcome to join us at Vision Sports Ireland. However, should you wish to compete in international events, particularly those organised by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) and the International Paralympic Council (IPC), validation of specific eyesight levels will be required. For further information click IBSA Eyesight Qualification criteria here.
Sport for Vision Impaired in Ireland - The Story So Far
1978 – 2018
The chronological evolution of organised national and international sport for vision impaired people in Ireland is as follows:
September: Six Irish athletes participate in UK Track and Field Championships for Vision Impaired People at the Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland.
April: First National Sports Club for vision impaired in Ireland was formed in Dublin
October: New sports club merges with a long-established organisation to become the Sports and Social Club of the National League of the Blind of Ireland. Weekly swimming classes begin and continue to this day.
June: Two vision impaired Irish athletes- Pat Kelly – (Limerick¬) and Martin Kelly (Kildare) – participate in Paralympic Games, Anhem, Netherlands.
May: The first Irish National Championships for vision impaired people is held in Dublin. Swimming and athletics competitions take place at the Irish Life Complex and the Morton Stadium. Championships were known for 3 decades as “The May Games, but now better known as MayFest.
August: First Irish athletics and swimming team take part in European Games, Fulda, West Germany. Medals: 2 gold (Carol Carr), 1 bronze (Pat Kelly).
October: Weekly athletics sessions begin and continue to this day.
August: Vision impaired sports people gather at Dublin’s Phoenix Park for the inaugural tandem cycle tour.
June: Seven vision-impaired athletes participate at Paralympic Games, New York, USA. Medals: 1 gold (400m, Carol Carr, Dublin); 1 silver (1500m, Carol Carr, Dublin); 3 bronze (400m and 1500m Pat Kelly, Limerick; 400m, Fintan O’Donnell, Limerick).1500m.
May: Irish Braille Chess Association founded in Dublin following success at 7th Braille Chess Olympiad in Benidorm, Spain. Members first participated at Braille Chess Olympiad 21 years previously in Hlungspornn, East Germany.
July: Irish tandem cycling team competes in a prologue to the grand finale of Tour de France, Paris, France. Medals: 1 gold.
October: Inaugural Irish Braille Chess Association Open International Tournament takes place at National League of the Blind headquarters, Gardiner Place, Dublin.
Irish Paralympic Council is founded.
November: Writer and broadcaster Liam Nolan chairs open a meeting in Dublin’s North Star Hotel where it is agreed to form the new national governing body for sport for vision impaired people in Ireland.
March: Irish Blind Sports Ltd – club name Irish BlindSports – is officially formed. Liam Nolan is appointed President.
April: Sportslink – the bi-monthly bulletin of Irish BlindSports – is launched.
November: Olympic 1500m gold medallist Ronnie Delaney opens the conference at the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise, which ultimately launches the Killeshin Report – BlindSports Blueprint for the ‘90’s.
The Irish Blind Golf Society founded with assistance from the Northern Ireland Blind Golf Society.
September: Two vision impaired judo players join with our track and field team at Paralympic Games, Barcelona, Spain. Medals: 2 silver (discus and pentathlon, Bridie Lynch, Donegal).
September: Irish BlindSports host 6th European Athletics Championships for the Blind, under auspices of the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) at Belfield, Dublin. More than 300 athletes from 23 nations participate. An Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, TD performs the official opening. President Mary Robinson attends a special presidential ceremony.
September: Equestrian becomes the third Paralympic sport to be represented by Irish vision impaired at the 1996 Paralympic Games, Atlanta, USA. Medals: 1 gold (discus, Bridie Lynch, Donegal) 2 bronze. ( Equestrian, Joan Salmon (Dublin); pentathlon, Bridie Lynch, Donegal).
Irish BlindSports member Ann Lyster becomes Chairperson of Irish Paralympic Council.
October: Vision impaired judo and athletics represented at Paralympic Games, Sydney, Australia. Medals: 1 bronze ( pentathlon, Catherine Walsh, Dublin).
January: Irish BlindSports member Tony Guest becomes first President of Irish Paralympic Council.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) officially recognises and adopts Futsal – football for blind/visually impaired. Five years later official Irish caps awarded and Ireland beat England in official international.
April: Irish BlindSports launch strategic plan The Vision to Enable Sports 2003-2007. Fred Cogley is elected President of Irish BlindSports and succeeds Liam Nolan who retires to Loughrea, Co. Galway.
October: First tandem cyclist joins judo and athletics at Paralympic Games, Athens, Greece.
At height of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger, Irish Blind Sports now have a full-time office, compliments of NCBI, in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin where two/three part-time staff are employed.
A period when old sports are resurrected and new sports emerge including angling, tenpin bowling, rowing and goalball as well as competitive tandem cycling and swimming.
September: First swimmer brings to five the total number of Paralympic sports, to date, represented by vision impaired people. Jason Smith (Derry) gives Ireland and Irish BlindSports greatest individual fetes to date with sprint double gold in double World Record times.
July: Irish Blind Sports athlete Jason Smith wins Athletics Ireland Irish National Championships 100m.
September: Due to rapidly deteriorating economic conditions Irish BlindSports ceases to employing staff. However, Dun Laoghaire office remains open.
October: IBS launch Forward Vision Strategic Plan 2009-2012.
November: Informal re-union of those involved in an organised sport for vision impaired –’78-09 – takes place at Wynne’s Hotel, Dublin.
May: 30th Anniversary May Games take place in North Dublin and attract wide interest from old and new members.
June: Fred Cogley retires as President of Irish Blind Sports; Colm Murray is elected new President.
May: Irish Blind Sports move the office to central Dublin, employ part-time office manager.
April: Launch of Strategic Plan 2012-2015.
August/September: 8 vision impaired people represent Ireland at London Paralympics winning 2 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. Para-rowing becomes the sixth sport at which Irish Paralympians participate in.
November: At EGM decided to re-name Irish Blind Sports Vision Sports Ireland.
May: To celebrate 25 years of Vision Sports Ireland (formerly Irish Blind Sports) a multi-sports MayFest was staged over two days.
July: Our President, Colm Murray, passes away.
September: Launch of Vision Sports Ireland to herald a brand new era in Vision Sports
March: Blind Football Ireland founded in association with Vision Sports Ireland and the FAI
May: MayFest was staged over two days.
April: Professor Michael O’Keefe accepts an invitation and becomes President of Vision Sports Ireland.
May: Vision Sports Ireland Strategic Plan 2015-2018 released at AGM.
May: MayFest held over 2 days.
October: Jason Smyth wins 100M Gold at IPC World Championships in Doha.
November: EGM planned to reform membership rules and strengthen Board.
May: President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins opened MayFest. Rated by all biggest ever, best attended ever.
September: Inaugural GNEC scheduled as a historic tandem gathering and key fundraising event
January: Jason Smyth – Fastest Paralympian on the Planet, 5-time gold medallist and World Record holder over 100m and 200m – joins Board of Vision Sports as Director of Development and Strategy.