Diabetes Ireland Celebrates 50 Years

Last Thursday evening, Diabetes Ireland launched a book detailing their 50 years in existence. I was so proud to be there to witness it, so honoured to be asked to contribute and excited to meet some diabetes legends. Local TD, Róisín Shortall did the honours and gave a lovely speech, as did chairperson, Hilary Hoey and CEO Kieran O’Leary.

Did you know that the very first AGM of what’s now Diabetes Ireland took place on the 2nd of April 1967 in the Mansion House in Dublin?

Do you know that 750 people showed up???? Yes, seven hundred and fifty people!!

They must have come from all over. The first mission of the organisation was to make insulin free to patients. They achieved this within their first two months. And then secured all other diabetes supplies on the Long Term Illness scheme in 1971.

This was especially poignant because as we were celebrating 50 years of free insulin and diabetes supplies, at the same time in the United States of America, THE richest nation in the world, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the health care act that made insulin accessible, and affordable to most of its millions of it’s citizens with diabetes. It was heartbreaking.

I’m quite lost for words for my fellow PWD’s in America. I hope to be able to find some, words that is, for a post soon.

When the speeches finished, I was approached by a lady, Una Wilson, who wanted to tell me that her daughter, Orla, who lives in America sent her a piece that I had written for DiabetesMine.com and complimented me on it.

I’ve always loved to hear stories, other people diabetes stories, and to hear about how Diabetes Ireland began and about the people who started it has been fascinating for me. So when Una told me her name, I immediately knew that she was employee number 2 with Diabetes Ireland - the very second person employed, and launched into a hundred questions about how that happened and what it was like. Una was diagnosed in 1982, her daughter Orla, then 12 was diagnosed a couple of months later and Orla’s daughter has been diagnosed recently.

The family of the very first person employed by Diabetes Ireland, Phil Vizzard, were there too and represented her proudly. Phil’s daughter, Nicola, talks in the book about being a small army of fundraisers; “shaking boxes outside football matches, raising sponsorship or collecting money in pubs”.

This book was exciting for me to read because I’ve been meeting other volunteers for years and never really got to sit and chat with them. It’s through the book that I found out how much of a LEGEND Donegal’s Danny McDaid is. Danny is a long time volunteer and a two time Olympian. I mean he has a 10K named after him!!!

I had no idea that there was a story behind the start of the southern branches. I also had the opportunity to meet Tony O’Sullivan a fellow person with type 1 diabetes and a GP, who was chairperson of Diabetes Ireland about the time that I began volunteering and went on the become chairperson of the International Diabetes Federation.

It was a lovely evening and I hope that this book finds it’s way into the hands of every person with diabetes.