“A long way from the gutter to the Aras”

A club that only opened its doors just one year ago almost to the day has received recognition and the highest of praise from the highest figures in the land.

A club that only opened its doors just one year ago almost to the day has received recognition and the highest of praise from the highest figures in the land.

The club which is located on the Diamond in Donegal Town was set up initially to provide much needed support and assistance for those seeking help in managing their respective addictions.

To date the club has achieved that and much, much more and their work was duly recognised just last Thursday by none other than the President of Ireland, Mary Mc Aleese.

To coincide with the club’s first birthday the Office of the President invited a delegation from the club to visit with President Mc Aleese at Aras an Uachtaran on Holy Thursday the 21st April and the President had cleared her diary for the whole day to be with the visiting members from Donegal.

The twenty strong delegation, representative of the overall club membership set off on a beautiful sunny morning for the Phoenix Park.

Martin McFadden of the Bill W Club told the Donegal Democrat, “We have had previous visits from the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and his Minister of Health, Dr. James Reilly and also from the Bishop of Raphoe, the Rev. Phillip Boyce - all of whom displayed a thorough knowledge and insight into the problems associated with addiction and depression.

“On arrival at Aras an Uachtarain, we were warmly welcomed by the President’s Aide-de-Camp and brought on a tour of the formal state rooms before being treated to some light non-alcoholic refreshments in the state dining room.

“President Mc Aleese arrived shortly after to welcome her honoured guests including myself who conveyed to her the warmest and sincere regards from her many friends in Donegal.

“The President has very strong connections with the county and she spoke fondly in particular of Glencolmcille, Kilcar and Killybegs. She spoke also of her time growing up and of summers visiting the area and of hours spent on her favourite beach in Fintra.

“It was a wonderful privilege and experience for all concerned as the President chatted unreservedly with each member of the delegation.

“The warmth and encouragement offered by the President will live long with those fortunate to have experienced it that day and feelings expressed by the delegation were that “It’s a long way from the gutter to the Aras”

Martin added, “The recurring theme that ran through the day for the travelling faithful was one of optimism and hope.

The President told Martin, “Change, even positive change can be difficult for people to accept. The Friends of Bill W has, and will continue to embrace and encourage positive change”

She also told the group to “Keep Talking About it” in relation to the problems being experienced as a result of substance abuse in this country and offered heartfelt encouragement to the assembled group and she assured them that support would come.

Martin told this newspaper, “The President was not just paying lip service to the problems that exist in present day society - she has obviously been researching and has a very deep insight into depression, addiction and the ever increasing incidences of suicide and self harm.

“We are more than hopeful that state funding will come sooner or later - difficult as the subject matter may be in the present financial climate, I do believe it is time we brought about change.

Martin asked the question of the President “What do we do to challenge or to change our drinking culture” The President replied “Keep doing what your doing and just keep talking about it”

“This was a tremendous acknowledgement by the President of the work that has already been done and also a powerful endorsement to continue on with that work that needs to be done.

“The feelings on the bus were of great joy and encouragement and a sense abounded that the journey was just beginning and that another true and lifelong friend made.” concluded Martin

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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