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Jim O'Reily
I sat watching TV day in and day out


Jim O’Reilly, who is 40, is a founder member of Destined and the current committee treasurer. (“I’m the man to see if you need a sub!”) A lifelong football fan, he is a regular at the Brandywell, though is a little concerned at Derry’s current run-of-form. Jim lives in the Bogside with his mother.

“My mother noticed I had a learning disability as soon as I was born. It has never worried me though, I just get on with my life. We were a happy family.”

Jim went to school at Belmont, where he got on well with his teachers and his studies. He wasn’t above the occasional bit of mischief, however, and didn’t like getting up in the mornings.

“I used to slip in at 7 o’clock in the morning to turn my mum’s alarm clock off, so I could sleep in. Sometimes it worked too. If it was too late for school, then my mum would just keep me off, and I would just sit around the house doing nothing and watching TV - a perfect day to myself!”

In general though, Jim behaved himself. “I liked going swimming and things like that with the school. I knew most of the teachers. I wasn’t treated differently. I was never unfairly punished because of my disability or excluded. No-one bothered me.”

Outside school, Jim was occasionally subjected to abuse, but his four sisters and two brothers were very protective of him.

“Sometimes, when we were going over the street, people would call names at me. I just walked on and ignored it. I had plenty of friends. If anyone was taking the hand out of me, my brothers and sisters would keep me on the straight and narrow – and tell me to walk away.

“Being taunted is very hurtful. I would never respond. Just get on with and don’t lose your temper. If they keep calling and calling to you, it’s best to walk on and keep ignoring them.

My mother was also very good.  My mother and me are very close. If anyone says anything about me she is very quick to defend me.”

Teachers such as Mrs Begley and Mrs Pearce were a big influence on Jim. And they helped him develop a keen interest in computers which he pursues to this day.

“I have taken courses in Destined in IT with Colm, and would like to get a job in computers. Dermot sends me emails to check and shows me games to help me learn. If I am on the computer in Destined, there are people there to help me.”

Prior to starting up Destined seven years ago, Jim worked as an unpaid gardener in a scheme for adults with learning disabilities. He didn’t enjoy the job and hasn’t worked full time since. He has plenty to fill his time though, between being a director of Destined and his many social interests.

“In my free time I go walks. I used to walk everywhere but I don’t like doing it at night now, as it’s too dangerous. I can’t drive because I am on medication. I do like cars, though.

“I also play pool and Playstation games. I don’t play football, but I watch it - particularly Celtic. I used to go to all the Derry matches but not as many now because they are playing badly. I live only five minutes away from the Brandywell in Donegal Place.”

Jim is also a big music fan, especially the Black Eyed Peas and Elvis, and he loves to watch the pop channel VH1. Though he doesn’t go to concerts, as they’re too expensive.

“I don’t manage my own money because I would spend it all. I don’t know how to manage money.”

Destined has made a huge difference in his life for the better. When Jim was at school, after lessons finished or when term was over, he would never leave the house.

“I would just sit watching TV day in and day out, not meeting anyone. But now people with learning disabilities are always out.

“I was one of the founders of Destined. Four of us decided to set up a group, then we got premises, and we started out from there. It changed my life for the better. Paul, Bridget, Roisin and me founded Destined because there was nothing there for us. I remember the four of us sitting in a wee room alone.”  

While the situation for people with learning disabilities has improved, Jim believes that there is still discrimination in wider society.

“Sometimes people with learning disabilities get ignored. If someone ignores me, I don’t talk to them at all. It annoys me a lot when you say hello to someone, and they just walk right past you. I have had that all my life.

“I have more confidence now than twenty years ago. I have lots of friends so it doesn’t bother me as much. I think I am lucky to have a good family and lots of friends.”