Thu 23 January 2020

Eileen is a true force of nature says Susan

Eileen Drumm is a force of nature taking every opportunity to build a better community

Photo:  Eileen Drumm (front centre) with (l-r) Enniskillen Chapter participants Valerie McNulty, Noleen Hayes, Siobhan Currie, Louise McLaughlin and Jemma Dolan MLA

When the former NICVA coordinator, Alexander De La Torre was researching the best way to establish a Next Chapter group in Enniskillen, the same name kept coming up again and again - Eileen Drumm.  Eileen, who resides in Enniskillen, has lived with disability all her life. Diagnosed with both Cerebral Palsy and Polio, she has never let this hold her back.

Eileen says: “When I received a phone call from Alex, I was very interested in the getting involved with the Next Chapter.  Fermanagh Women’s Network no longer existed and there was a great need for the women’s sector to be supported again in Fermanagh.”
A true force of nature, Eileen is an advocate and ambassador for both women and disability, lobbying at local and regional level for better services and representation within her community and beyond. The list of organisations she has supported and volunteered with is impressive: Fermanagh PHAB, Fermanagh and Omagh Disability Advisory Group, Voluntary Sector Community Planning, Disability Housing Forum, Fermanagh Stroke Support Group to name a few, as well as helping to establish Shopmobility in Enniskillen and Women Making Waves, a local support group for women with or without disabilities.  Three years ago Eileen received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her services to disability in Fermanagh, an honour which she was surprised, but very proud to receive.
More recently Eileen has been invited to join the Boards of Fermanagh Community Transport and IMTAC (Inclusive Mobility Transport Advisory Committee) and she puts her decision to apply for these roles down to her involvement with The Next Chapter Project:  “Living in rural Fermanagh and being involved with a lot of organisations, I am very aware of the difficulties facing everyone due to lack of transport.  I must thank my involvement with The Next Chapter for giving me the encouragement to apply to join the Boards of IMTAC and Fermanagh Community Transport.  It has encouraged me to be more proactive when lobbing for disability and women’s rights and I have definitely gained more confidence.”
“And I would particularly like to thank the Enniskillen Next Chapter gang and the Manager of Fermanagh Community Transport for their encouragement. I have really enjoyed all parts of the project.  I have caught up with some old friends and made some new ones.  I was so proud of the ladies who stood for election as well.  This was something new to me and I was very interested in their campaigns.”
Reflecting on her involvement with The Next Chapter Project, Eileen says there have been many highlights.  She says: “From the training we received, hearing first-hand about the journey of the Women’s Coalition, to learning so much about the Good Friday Agreement and beyond, the coaching and mentoring given by Gordon, my one-to-one coach, and the support of our co-ordinators Alex and Susan.  And all this time I was learning and didn’t realise it.”
There was one particular highlight that will stay with Eileen for a long time and she recounts it with the good grace and humour she is known and respected for:  “I loved all of the networking events, but the one event I will not forget was our trip to Dáil Éireann in September, when I got stuck in a chairlift and then had to be pushed around the building in a wheelchair with two flat tyres!”  Eileen wasn’t content to let the episode pass, writing a letter to both Finian McGrath (TD), Minister for Disabilities, and the Superintendent of the Houses of the Oireachtas, highlighting the inadequacies of disability access in Parliament Buildings: “Although I did let people see the funny side of things on the day, this was actually very serious. It made me realise how much more work needs to be done for disability rights and equality in Ireland. And hopefully they [the Oireachtas] will start to address the shortcomings in the building and make disability access straightforward and easy for people like me.”
As The Next Chapter comes to an end, Eileen and her fellow participants in the Enniskillen Hub are planning a community event in early February 2020, with some other inspirational local women as speakers.  “We are keen to continue as a support group for women in Fermanagh after the project ends and we have an action plan in place for the next twelve months.  Now the hard work begins getting our project off the ground, but I look forward to the challenge.”
Eileen Drumm is a member of the Enniskillen Next Chapter group and was speaking to NICVA Project Coordinator, Susan Glass.
The Next Chapter project is delivered by Politics Plus, together with partners Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and Irish Rural Link, It is funded through the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for The Next Chapter project is provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.