The mural of Amanda Baker.

Local artist creates 60-foot mural for Down Syndrome campaign

A 60-foot mural of a midlands woman by renowned Tullamore street artist, Joe Caslin was unveiled in Dublin city centre this week to mark the 50th anniversary of Down Syndrome Ireland.

The piece is entitled “Don’t Talk Down to Me” and was erected overnight on the side of a building at the corner of Harcourt Street and Clonmel Street. It features a smiling 21-year-old Amanda Butler from Mullingar who is excited to be part of Down Syndrome Ireland’s celebrations and grateful to be given the chance to smile.

Joe Caslin, a teacher in Tullamore, is one of Ireland’s leading street artists and has created several murals focusing on social issues including one advocating same-sex marriage on George’s Street, Dublin in 2015, Our Nation’s Sons which explored issues affecting boys and young men, and The Volunteers series which highlighted the importance of voluntary work in areas such as drug addiction, mental health and direct provision.

Amanda is a friend of Joe’s and he found it “personally poignant” to work with her and her family.

He says that in this mural Amanda invites you into her world and asks you to consider her, her Down Syndrome and the positive presence she can bring to a space, a place of work, a neighbourhood or a city.

The unveiling of this portrait of Amanda coincides with the publication of a new report – The Upside – Life with Down Syndrome. It highlights the gaps between public aspirations and the reality for people like Amanda and their families in their day-to-day lives.

The report focuses on four key aspects of life for a person with Down Syndrome – health, education, employment and life in the community. It found that 60% of post primary students with Down Syndrome would like to go to college, but less than 30% were doing a course before the pandemic struck and many of those courses were delivered in health care settings by care staff

According to an Oireachtas Disability Group Pre-Budget Submission, Ireland has the lowest rate of employment and one of the highest rates of poverty for people with disability in the EU.

Barry Sheridan, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, is anxious to change this. DSI acknowledges that life has changed fundamentally for people with Down Syndrome since the association was founded in 1971, but still only 6% of adults are employed and he calls for action to change this.

Over the last five years, Down Syndrome Ireland has made over 20 submissions to Government consultations and have participated in numerous pilot programmes. The time for talking has passed, now it’s time for action to bridge the significant gaps in inclusion, he has stated.

DSI wants already adopted legislation and policies implemented in full and long-standing, out-dated laws updated as they are irrelevant and unfit for purpose. For example, the 2015 Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act has not been fully implemented which means that vulnerable people are having their capacity challenged under the 1871 Lunacy Act.

On this, their 50th anniversary, the DSI are re-dedicating themselves to a world in which all those with Down Syndrome have the chance to enhance their quality of life, realise their life’s aspirations and become valued members of a welcoming society