While service users have been making the most of Ard Aoibhinn's new day centre in the Redmond Square car park since October, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath arrived to officially cut the ribbon on what has been a welcome addition to the local community.
Ard Aoibhinn provides a range of services for people with special needs and was initially established in 1995. Based in Belvedere Road, the service had seen an increasing uptake in recent years and things had become quite cramped, leading the board to seek another building. When the opportunity came up to take the former Library building came up, they leapt at the chance and work on fitting it out started last year with the day centre taking up residency there in October.
'The management have been working on this project for a long time with Wexford County Council,' said Team Leader Thomas O'Leary. 'We link in with the main centre in Belvedere Road and then there's also respite houses. The demand for services was increasing all the time so we were delighted to be able to open Duille Nua.'
The focus of the new centre is finding a place within the local community. Each morning, service users arrive in by bus and have their cup of tea before the majority of them head out into the town.
'The whole point of Duille Nua is access to the local community,' explained Thomas. 'It's situated in the heart of town and the aim is to put it at the heart of the community. We do have things like music and art sessions here too, but we try to get our service users out into the community to the likes of the library or the gym or the swimming pool and various classes.'
Currently, the centre caters for 23 service users, with five staff and they were well represented as the ribbon was officially cut. Present alongside Minister McGrath were fellow TDs Brendan Howlin, James Browne and Michael D'Arcy all of whom were delighted to see the project come to fruition. Local election hopeful Jane Johnstone spoke on behalf of the parents of Ard Aoibhinn while Leslie O'Leary said a few words on behalf of service users. Finally, Services Manager at Ard Aoibhinn Gerry Heaney spoke of how the project had come to this point.
There was a wonderful party atmosphere, with music from Stephen Murphy, and it was a fitting occasion to mark the turning of 'an Duille nua' or a new leaf for Ard Aoibhinn in Wexford.