Miracle on Abbey Road, Thurles for Down Syndrome Tipp, but help is needed

Noel Dundon


Noel Dundon




Some of the volunteer workers on site at Abbey Road, Thurles with Deputy Michael Lowry

A DIY SOS is underway right now  at the Tipperary centre in Thurles 

Motorists passing through Abbey Road in Thurles over the last few weeks have wondered what exactly is going on at a premises opposite the Lidl car park.

Well, the answer is something of a little miracle actually.

The premises, owned by Down Syndrome Tipperary, is undergoing a major transformation, to being a state-of-the-art centre for the over 60 active families from north and south Tipperary who are involved in the organisation.

And, the miracle of it all? Deputy Michael Lowry explained: “When the committee approached me for advice and assistance I recommended the voluntary approach. I offered to recruit a task team and manage the project. In consultation with the Group we agreed to go this ambitious route. The response, as I expected, has been amazing. We now have in place an exceptional team of volunteers possessed with a wide range of skills and craftsmanship. Pat Whelan, together with his Heart to Hand colleagues have set a wonderful example. Every day we have new recruits anxious to help. This development is well underway with a three month work schedule. activity. The financial generosity and spirit of kindness is heart warming.

When The Tipperary Star visited this week, the place was a hive of activity. Block laying, groundworks, demolition, construction, foundation laying, planning and logistics were all underway in different sections of the sizeable site – a site which has been further enhanced by the huge generosity of next door neighbour Michael Mahony, who handed over the rear section of his garden for the development of a play area for the kids who will be catered for at the centre – an unbelievable act of generosity on the part of the Mahony family. At the other side, next door neighbour Ned Cornally has been extremely co-operative and accommodating also, allowing for a new perimeter wall to be built.

A dream come through - some of the members of DST when the property was purchased last year

Deputy Michael Lowry, who has been central to the whole DIY process at the Abbey Road centre explains: State Agency funding for these initiatives is very limited so, we had to go a different route and we decided, in consultation with the group, to go down this road instead. Most of the materials for this extensive refurbishment have been sponsored by various companies and all of the labour is voluntary. The reaction and the response of those who were asked to help out has been just phenomenal. This really is a remarkable project and I cannot speak highly enough about Down Syndrome Tipperary, and all those who are helping out.

“We are still looking for help and anyone who can come on board with labour or with materials and financial assistance, would be very very welcome as we continue the push to get the project finished,” Deputy Lowry said.
The total cost of the original project was estimated at €300,000 and the group is hoping that through direct donations, the remainder of the funds can be realised. The fitting out of the centre will be particularly costly but hopefully through the continued extraordinary generosity of people and companies, the funds can be realised.

Down Syndrome Tipperary Chairperson, Catherine Cleary told The Tipperary Star: “We are so thrilled to be working with Michael Lowry and the team of volunteers on this project. After years of fundraising to purchase this house we were so delighted to have our own space for our therapies, activities, member support groups and events but it needed extensive renovations to make it a suitable space for our members.

An artists impression of the plans, without the new playground included.

“It is such a relief to see the renovations taking place. We are so grateful to Michael and all the crew involved. It really is a dream come true. Words cannot express how grateful we are.”

Down Syndrome Tipperary was founded in the 1970's and is a voluntary organisation which is committed to the provision of services and improve and advance the lives of members. They currently employ two staff directly – one speech and language therapist and one employed branch administrator. They also have two contracted staff – an educational tutor and a speech and language therapist and though affiliated to Down Syndrome Ireland, there is no funding whatsoever for the Tipperary group. Therefore, all activities have to be fundraised for, including what will be the magnificent new centre.

The premises was purchased in 2019 and thanks to a decade of fundraising and philanthropic donations, it is mortgage free.
The centre will include, in the main building, therapeutic services, and in the workshop centre at the rear – an Activity Centre, where the hope it to increase activities and services. There will also be a magnificent new playground – a brilliant addition which will be of major benefit to all.

If you can help out in any way, why not do so through volunteering or by donating to Down Syndrome Tipperary. Every little bit helps and all donations would be greatly appreciated by the committee, members of which are working round the clock to get the centre opened as soon as possible.  The bank details are: Account No: 07528039 BIC AIBKIE2D Sort code: 93/53/28. IBAN IE84AIBK93532807528039.