Narin is first in Europe with special facilities

Leonard Molloy, chairman of the Dolmen Centre, and Paul Dawson at the new Changing Places Step Down facility at Narin beach.

NARIN is the first beach in Europe to have a fully-fitted Changing Places step-down toilet facility.
This will make a big difference to the lives of so many people in the area and beyond who require additional equipment.
The Changing Places toilet facility, located just off the car parking area at the beach, is different from standard wheelchair accessible toilets as they provide extra equipment like a hoist and an adult sized changing bench.
In Ireland there are only 15 Changing Places Toilet Facilities.
The local Dolmen Centre led the fundraising campaign for a hoist and changing bench for the wheelchair accessible toilet at the beach.
On Tuesday, Leonard Molloy, chairperson, Dolmen Centre, and Paul Dawson, who lives adjacent to the beach showed off the new facilities to the Donegal News.
It was the shortest day of the year but both Leonard and Paul were already looking forward to the brighter, longer days of summer.
“We had to wait on Donegal County Council to install the equipment as it is council property and we’re now in the process of registering with Changing Places Ireland on their network. It will be one of the first Changing Places step-down facilities in Ulster.
“It will allow anybody who has a disability and wants a day out at the beach to come to Narin and will compliment the facilities we already have in place,” Mr Molloy said.
Agreeing, Paul Dawson said the new facilities would prove to be ‘life-changing’ for anybody with a disability.
“We’ve had a beach wheelchair on site for the past three years but, unfortunately, a number of local people were unable to use it because they couldn’t get out of their chair into it. Now, they’re able to use the hoist.
“It’s great to have a facility like this. It will allow families to enjoy the whole day on the beach. They no longer will have to go home because somebody needs to go to the toilet or be changed. It links in with the new walk and wheelchair picnic bench which has been installed over in Portnoo,” Mr Dawson said.
The electric hoist, costing €4,000, has been sponsored by Narin and Portnoo Links while an additional €4,000 needed to purchase the changing bench and privacy screen has been provided by support from local councillors, past and present, and local musicians.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the Duck Street Jam Band – and friends – who played two impromptu music sessions at the beach last summer. The sessions raised over €2,500. It is a superb effort,” Mr Molloy said.
“We’ve repaired an area from the pier over to the plinth at the High Rock in Portnoo. The next phase is to put in place at wheelchair friendly picnic bench. We received financial support from local Councillor Anthony Molloy (€2,500) and some funds from the Downstrands Development Group while a number of other councillors, both past and present, contributed to the purchase of the picnic bench and other ancillary equipment,” he added.
Mr Dawson is a retired health and safety officer with the Fire Service and worked in Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
“I went to school in Glenties with Leonard and I came back here to live two years ago after retiring early from the fire service. I’ve MS and I use the chair all the time now.
“While I have a hoist at home, this new facility will make a world of difference to people from home and abroad who maybe thinking about coming to Donegal on holiday.
“Narin is the only beach in the country that now has access to a hoist for its beach wheelchair. It’s a first for Ireland and, as far as I can see, Europe.
There are more and more Changing Places facilities being installed in cities and towns but this is a first for a beach area. It’s fantastic for Narin and Donegal.
“It’s life-changing. It’s designed for all levels of disability. It would never have happened without the drive and determination of Leonard and the Dolmen Centre committee. They started the ball rolling and then brought me on board. I really don’t think people realise how much of a difference this will make. It’s a dream come true,” Mr Dawson said.
The new facilities will be open for the public ahead of the annual New Year’s Day swim on Saturday next.
While Leonard will take to the water, Paul believes that it may well be a bridge too far.
“I might – just might – use the new swimming pool facilities when they’re built at the Dolmen Centre but going into the Atlantic at this time of year? I don’t think so,” he laughed.

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