New Accessible Benches for Clondalkin and Lucan

Lucan Councillor and inclusion advocate Cllr. Vicki Casserly has successfully lobbied for the installation of accessible benches parks across Lucan, Clondalkin and Tallaght.

Earlier this year her Fine Gael Council colleagues Emer Higgins and Kenneth Egan requested the installation of accessible benches in Corkagh Park and have congratulated the Council on installing one at the Corkagh Park Pet Farm.

An accessible bench is a bench specifically designed to enable wheelchair users to use picnic benches. In response to the Fine Gael call, led by Cllr. Vicki Casserly, accessible benches will be installed in Tymon Park and Griffeen Valley Park too.

My Election Experience

As many of you will already know I am a Fine Gael councillor with South Dublin County Council and I represent the Lucan/Palmerstown Ward.  As someone who was elected after my very first political campaign I still consider myself relatively new to the world of politics, but believe that my role as a community activist prepared me well to serve my constituents. I have a wealth of experience working on community issues, especially those linked to access, disability and inclusion. In this blog, I would like to talk a little bit about my political journey and why I became involved.

Several years ago, I first met the now Cllr William Lavelle and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald during my search for information regarding services (or what I felt was a distinct lack of services and failings in my own community) for children with disability. My son had been diagnosed with a condition which brought me on a journey where I was regularly encountering barriers and obstacles hindering our path to progress.  At the time, I called on every local representative for support in accessing what we required and to develop improved services in our area.  No one was willing to step up to the mark effectively, yet there was still a very obvious need for support.  I had a random, chance meeting with Cllr Lavelle, who wasn’t elected at the time and, having lost all faith, I told him our story. He didn’t have the answers but told me he would come back to me with a commitment from Minister Fitzgerald to address these issues, and we worked together from that day. That was almost 10 years ago now and their dedication locally is still to be commended.

Vicki campaign2

My family and I had committed to giving them our full support as we believed in their work ethic, morals and commitment to all things local, which could only be advantageous to our community. At this point, I actively engaged with my own network, relaying this good work, whilst carrying on with my own projects, very much under the radar but with the full and constant support of Cllr Lavelle and Minister Fitzgerald.

Several months prior to the local election, having thought through what was not an obvious path for me, I decided I would put myself forward to run for Fine Gael and try to transfer the work that I was doing locally into a more formal setting.

I felt in order to make changes, I needed to be more involved and I believed I held similar qualities, values and work ethic required to represent my specific area of interest in a strong capacity.

I also felt that I was well equipped to represent Fine Gael in an effective manner as part of the great team in our area.  As I was new to politics, my election team was small but worked very well together and covered so much ground with me. I engaged with the local branch and previous retired councillors, who shared their wealth of knowledge, experience and supported in my journey.

I always describe my journey as a “short sharp burst”. I stayed true to myself and my goals and I was never afraid to say, “I don’t know” or ask for advice when it was needed.  As I previously learned from my first encounter with William, it is ok not to know as it gives you the opportunity to go away and learn and come back to constituents, showing them your commitment to help where you can which I feel is vital in my role as a local councillor.  I also previously worked in South Dublin County Council, in the Finance Department so I feel my experience there has also helped to give me an insight into the workings of our local authority which is fantastic when dealing with my council colleagues.

Although it was tough at times, I thoroughly enjoyed my campaign trail and would urge members and the community itself to stay active – and remember, there are always ways to help your local representatives, from leaflet drops to canvassing to sharing thoughts over a cup of tea!  Having been successfully elected, I am very proud of the opportunities that have come my way and I look forward to the next few years serving the people of Lucan and Palmerstown – tackling whatever challenges lie ahead together for the good of our community!

Vicki with Leo1

Cllr Vicki Casserly

My Son’s Disability Will Not Limit His Hopes & Dreams…

In April 2005, I was excited to learn I was expecting my first baby. My road to parenthood had begun and this journey would be filled with excitement, anticipation and wonder – as well as many, many expectations!

On 5th January 2006, I gave birth to my gorgeous son, James, and in that moment, all my dreams came true. From the very start, you approach every new day as an adventure that is filled with many firsts; first eye contact, first smile first time to recognise hands, fingers toes and so on.

However, whilst enjoying being a new mum, by the time James was seven months old, I had noticed that he was not sitting up properly or maintaining posture. He also had restricted movement and was not physically achieving expected developmental milestones. I was anxiously waiting for him to sit up, roll, crawl, sit to stand, kick his bed covers off, but nothing. And so, my new journey began.

Vicki and James 1
Vicki and James

We first attended Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin, where we met a wonderful man, Dr Colm Costigan. He talked me very rationally through his “process of elimination” approach, where they allow a certain amount of time for children to physically catch up in the percentile bracket for developmental checks. In other words, they would wait and see giving James physiotherapy to encourage physical activity during that time.

It was at this point that I caught a glimpse of the road ahead. James turned two and, irrespective of the fantastic physiotherapy and occupational therapy he received from OLCH, it was evident something was amiss. Dr Costigan, gently spoken, informed me that he suspected James had Cerebral Palsy and he would refer us to neurology to confirm. In that instant, I felt like my world was collapsing around me, but I also had an overwhelming sense of relief because I finally secured a diagnosis for my son which would help us move forward in the right direction.

I don’t remember the drive home that day. But I remember collapsing into my mum’s arms when I got home. To anyone who hasn’t gone through it, it’s a hard one to explain. You are filled with grief, sadness, a sense of loss and fear, because, as I explained, when you first become a parent, you sort of assume all those milestones will be met and never plan for a situation like this. There could have been a thousand people around me that afternoon, and yet I felt so lonely and completely lost.

The fear of the unknown was very strong; the lack of understanding of my son’s condition, what services he would need, what the future would hold for us…

At this point, we were referred to an Early Intervention Centre, Enable Ireland. My gusto had kicked in and I was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead. The most important thing that struck me around this time was that, despite the difficult diagnosis and the many challenges ahead, two vital things didn’t change – 1. I was still a very happy mum and still had a wonderful little boy. We still lived our lives to the full every day, and – almost without realising it – we had already begun finding our way around things to give James an independent ability to function day-to-day. And 2. The fear was going away.

James began receiving physiotherapy which strengthened his weak muscles, as well as speech and language therapy to encourage communication. Emotional support was just as important so a social worker and psychologist also worked with James and the family. Although it can sometimes be difficult emotionally, there were many more good days with all the support of the incredible service. We began to focus on the ability, not disability.

James is 11 now and he attends mainstream primary school and is has become an advocate for access and inclusion himself.

Vicki and James marathon2
Family Run

One of the most visible challenges we have met is the public perception of disability. My attitude towards disability is to be proactive, not allowing the situation to define us. Yes, we acknowledge it but we use this acknowledgement to empower us and always be open and honest. This demystifies stigma associated with disability. I feel perception is a huge barrier which prevents inclusion in our society. Persons with disability, my son included, strive for equality and equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of living.

In James’ school setting, the role of his special needs assistance is crucial to allow him to be independent. I equate the role of an SNA to the role of a PA which allows the person with disability to have independence and ability to maximise choice to live and be part of an inclusive society. The role of an SNA is not to create an air of dependency, it is to be led by the needs of the person with disability to remove obstacles which may cause exclusion in a school setting. A common misperception I have been met with is attitudes to children with disability attending mainstream school. I sometimes must make clear that I don’t consider James to be doing well just be attending school, like any parent, I expect him to do his best – which is hugely different!

As a parent, I use my time and energy trying to overcome obstacles, focusing on what can be done to empower my son to live life to the maximum. I feel as a modern society more emphasis should be put on education and awareness to give us the desired universal community we aspire to.

I want James to grow up into a strong, confident young man, happy, independent and most of all healthy. When James grows up, he wants to travel the world, starting in Barcelona as it’s the most accessible city in Europe, and be a Paralympian swimmer. As a parent, like so many other parents, I hope our society evolves and aspires to allows him and others achieve this.

Cllr Vicki Casserly

Participatory Budget Selections

As an integral part of the Participatory Budgeting committee and I am delighted to announce that the process has been concluded and funding for a playground in Waterstown Park has been given the go ahead along with seven other local projects.

The playground received the most votes out of the 17 shortlisted projects and was one of 8 community objectives given the green light.

The shortlisted projects were voted on by the public, allowing the community to have a direct say in how the money should be spent.

Other projects which will be funded by the €300,000 Participatory Budget include a feasibility study for the restoration of Silver Bridge in Palmerstown, planting of apple trees in Lucan, free library book banks in public places, a multi-games wall for Lucan and the restoration of King John’s Bridge in Griffeen.

The final project that has been given the go ahead is Christmas Lights for Lucan, which has been proposed for many years.

Participatory Budget results
Successful projects

South Dublin County Council confirmed that 160 submissions were received during the consultation process with 17 projects shortlisted for the public vote.

The voting took place between the 22nd and the 26th of May during which time over 2,500 digital/paper ballot votes were cast.

“I am proud to have been a part of this local democratic process and delighted to see so many great suggestions from local people.

“I am particularly pleased to see the money go towards so many important community projects, especially the Christmas Lights for Lucan Village, free library book banks and new apple trees – these projects will be there for our young people and future generations to enjoy.”

The results were announced at a special ceremony in the Clarion Hotel, Liffey Valley on the 1st of June by Mayor Guss O’Connell.

Home Security Scheme

Good news for South Dublin County Council residents – the South Dublin Home Security Scheme has been renewed for 2017!

During the very successful campaign last year the council replaced more than 500 locks across the county, making resident’s homes safer.

I am very pleased to announce that applications will reopen next week with new locks fitted throughout the Summer.

I very much welcome this scheme which will support older, vulnerable or residents living alone to replace their existing front door European Profile Locks with high security anti snap locks.

I am delighted to see this scheme return and have been assured by council management that those who applied but did not have new locks fitted in 2016 will be advised of this new opportunity.

This scheme is a chance for residents to increase their home security and I hope it will offer peace of mind for those who are vulnerable or living alone in our community.

Applications will open on Monday, May 15th and can be made online at www.sdcc.ie.

The applications process will close on Friday, June 9th at 4pm and I want to advise constituents to make their applications as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

If you have any questions or need advice on the application process please do not hesitate to contact me by emailing vcasserly@cllrs.sdublincoco.ie