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Darryl McDonough
I work in a hotel as a prep chef


Darryl McDonough, who’s 29 and from Inch View in Derry, works as a trainee chef at the City Hotel. He is also a senior volunteer with ‘Cosy’, a project set up to support senior citizens, and is a director of Destined.

Darryl had a happy childhood, although he admits having been upset when his parents separated and his father left the family home. Despite this, he gets on very well with both his parents and his brothers and sisters.

“We never fight. We were a happy family and would go bowling and swimming together. At the weekend, we go socialising. Even today, we go up the town together and over to visit my grandmother who lives in sheltered accommodation on her own.”

When he was younger, Darryl used to be embarrassed about his learning difficulties, but his mother always stressed that he shouldn’t worry about them. And it is advice which he has taken to heart.

“I was ashamed of my learning difficulty. Every time my mum would mention it, when I was younger, I would cover my face - but not now. It took me a while to realise this for myself.

“I didn’t worry about going to Belmont. The only thing I had trouble with was learning to read and write. I was accepted for what I was in Belmont.”

Darryl always tried to be a good student. “I took part in a lot of concerts and plays in school. I did Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - I was Doc because I had glasses. I would introduce the acts and stuff as well. I felt nervous at the start but I got used to it and my confidence grew.  The teacher in charge of this was Jane Bryce.”

Once or twice, Darryl was subject to bullying at school, but the authorities dealt with it very quickly. “One of the students got me up against the wall and hit me. I was calling out for help and left crying. I went to the principal, who was Tommy McCully and the student got suspended.”

Darryl in turn is always quick to stand up for other friends and co-workers who are being picked on. “I have a sister who has a learning disability, and one day when we were out walking, this guy says, ‘Your sister is a handicapped so and so.’ And I said, ‘Excuse me, you take that back, or I am going to tell my mother.’ And he said, ‘I am very sorry’, because they are terrified of my mum!”

Occasionally, Darryl admits, his disability has worked to his advantage.  “I was never unfairly punished because of my learning difficulty. But I have got away with stuff because of my disability. I was sent to the principal for doing something, and he just said go back to class and I will deal with this other guy. I just kept my mouth shut and got away with it.”


After gaining qualifications in woodwork, Darryl completed a NVQ Level 1 in catering at the North West Institute, which gave him his first foothold in the hospitality industry.

“I worked in the canteen in the main Tech building, which I really enjoyed. And I now work in a hotel doing practical prep stuff. I am a trainee chef. I clear tables and wash dishes and prepare sandwiches and toasties. I would get a bit of support from the chef doing this.”

Darryl also worked for a number of other companies in the city though feels he was treated a little unfairly in that, while all these employers later gave him first-class references, none of them were prepared to pay him a proper wage or offer him full-time work. The City Hotel, however, took him on in a permanent paid post in 2002, and he is extremely happy there.

“I got my job in the City Hotel through Mencap on Bishop Street. My support worker, Ethna Kelly, took me out on work placements. She got me work placements in retail then I moved into catering. I worked every day in the City Hotel then I got a job in there in January 2002 as a trainee chef. I love it there. They are good to me.” 

Darryl has a sister with a severe learning disability, so when he was growing up, he often spent weekends with another family, on the outskirts of the city. He got on so well with them that he still visits them regularly to this day.

“I have been going to Eileen and John since I was about 10. I enjoyed the family. I stay at the weekends. They are lovely people and they have a family of their own, three daughters and one son. I have never been in any institutions for people with learning disabilities.”

Outside work, Darryl thoroughly enjoys Destined’s social programmes. He is happily single but has many friends in the group – and goes on regular tours of Donegal with Michael McEvoy.

“Dermot O’Hara has been very supportive since I started Destined ten years ago. He made a big difference along with big Terry [McDevitt] and Martina Coyle.

“In my free time and my days off work, I come to Destined with my friends. I listen to music. I like Meatloaf and the Beatles - I am going to buy their new box set. 

“Since I was young, the support has got better for people with learning disabilities. Everyone gets treated better now instead of being treated different. Groups like Destined make a big difference.” 


(See also: Teresa Mc Donough Interview)