Memories of Martin

Martin Naughton, widely considered to be one of the most influential disability activists in Ireland over the last fifty years, passed away age sixty-two on 13 October 2016. Last March on his sixty-third birthday, those who knew and loved him posted some beautiful tributes to Martin on Facebook. These tributes illustrate the extraordinary person Martin was and how sadly he was missed.


Eileen Daly:


I met Martin for the first time in 1994, a day that will be etched in my memory always. I had a dream, I wanted to go to university but how? I felt both terror and awe as I talked to him. He told me anything was possible. In August 1994, my journey to freedom and adulthood begun. I moved to UCD in October and I’ve never looked back. During those first few years, I was busy enjoying student life and I slowly began to grow up. Martin was always in the background, observing. When I graduated from UCD in 1997 Martin gave me my first “project” supporting and coaching young people with disabilities. I had great fun, I was hooked! As the years passed, Martin became my mentor, my equal and my friend. I always knew he was at the other end of the phone. He helped me out of “many holes” always in a dignified and sensitive manner. Martin, you gave me my key to freedom and this allowed me to become the person I am today! Thank you from the bottom of my heart I miss you more than I ever thought I would. We will keep fighting the fight and we will have fun doing it! Happy Birthday xxx


Audrey Brodigan:

I first met Martin in the CIL Bolton Street office. I remember about five staff trying to get into the one toilet to hide, and two running out the door for coffee break. He zooms through the door shouting orders at Joe T and Fiachra, such an amazing presence. The first words I ever spoke to him were. “Don’t you ever shout at me like you’ve just done to everyone”.


Sarah Campbell:

I first met Martin in Smithfield. Scariest job interview ever, before or since.

Brian Clancy:

I first met Martin in the CIL offices on Bolton Street. He was always shouting at me but I loved him­


Sarah Fitzgerald:

I first met Martin back in 2005 when I was looking for a summer job. My PA had arranged an interview with this ‘great man’ Martin Naughton, who was setting up something called a Leader Forum. Now you have to understand that I knew everything about everything, I was twenty-one and studying at Trinity, one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. He absolutely needed me! Oh I can laugh at my arrogance now… I went to the interview in Smithfield where I met the man himself. For some reason the first thing I noticed about him were his eyes, they always twinkled and smiled. He wanted me to coordinate the setting up of the Dublin Leader Forum, I didn’t have a clue what he was on about but told him that I was his woman and so I had a job. And with Susan O’ Brien and Sarah Campbell secretly helping me (transferring Martin’s vision into easy-to-follow instructions) we did just that. Martin was only human like the rest of us but what I loved about him was his daring spirit and his clear vision for achieving what he might consider the true philosophy of Independent Living. Another thing I loved about Martin was that he took the time to get to know you. I’ll never forget the day in 2011 that Offaly CIL welcomed *the* Judy Heumann (one of the original US activists) to the Centre, and Martin introduced me to Judy as a hardworking, passionate activist. By then he was a celebrity in my eyes so the fact he even knew my name was exciting to me!! But he was introducing me to Judy Heumann! I felt like a teenager meeting One Direction! It was Martin that made me so interested in the history of the movement, where we’ve come from. But Martin himself was always looking to the future and so we have an obligation to ensure that we keep his spirit and passion alive!


Nuala Ni Chonchrá:

I first met Martin in DFI when I was working on the mainstreaming for my project and Martin was my mentor. I remember so well that first meeting in the Board room. He kept saying ‘do I know you from somewhere?’ – and as he has relatives who are Crowes he reckoned it could be that. SOOOO many adventures after that and so many projects. Happy Birthday Martin – we all miss you.

Eoin Healy:

Just before I met Martin in 1995 for the first time, Sandra O Connor told me if I wanted some weekend work to make a few bob, to call around to Martin’s. I was told all I would have to do is help out a guy in a wheelchair. So I went around and introduced myself. Before long I found myself losing whatever I had made on a game of cards (21) to (if memory serves me right) Hubert McCormack, Joe T Mooney, Tony Maloney and someone else I can’t remember right now. The other thing I will never forget was that same weekend, I got to cook my first chicken…. and pretty much every Sunday after that with a game of 21 after dinner.


Annie Byrne:

I met Martin in 2012. He gave me hope that I would be living independently, and since then my relationship with him changed. I saw Martin as the godfather of the disability community. I looked up to him in so many ways, and when I am having bad days in life, I know Martin and my brother are helping me get through it.

Shelly Gaynor:

I met Martin in 1997 when I had starting using a Personal Assistant. He went on to become a great mentor and amazing friend someone who was always in my comer. We did many different protests together over the years and someone who I miss very much.

Geraldine Graydon:

I met Martin many many years ago during a protest outside the Dail where he chained himself to the railings because his group could not get a meeting with the then Minister of Transport Mary O’Rourke to discuss their issues regarding transport.


Hubert McCormack:

“Integration in our Nation”. A slogan on a float for the St Patrick’s Day Parade in 1981 – the Year of the Disabled – One of the first political projects which I was involved with Martin Naughton on. Of course, it was his idea. We were both living in Baldoyle at the time and little did I know that as I was being physically lifted by “Big Bren” on to the back of that float (a 40ft artic) on a cold wet day in my scout uniform, that this would be just one of many great projects for the next 35 years. Nothing will ever replace the fun (and sometimes, not so fun) times we had together. Great memories and happy times.

RIP my friend. Will never forget you.

Mary Llewellyn:

I met Martin in 1974, in St Mary’s Baldoyle. Day one in my new job and this place had a swimming pool. Soon as I finished my first shift, off I went for a dip and before I even put a toe in the water, this guy in a wheelchair came up to me and said “Can you swim? Right you’re down for a sponsored 100 length swim on Sunday, you’ll be in lane 1 by the wall” I’ve been best friends with Martin ever since. As Morgan Freeman said in Shawshank Redemption “Truth be told, I just miss my friend”

Sinead Cronin McCabe:

I met Martin in June 1994. I had an almost 2 week lead in of being told about Martin by Noirín Halligan, Rosaleen Doherty, Frederick, Julie, Grainne, Dermot, Michael, Joe T and many more Needless to say I was terrified, but in the gate lodge of Carmichael House there was nowhere to hide:D I was near the window when I saw the famed Blue Van pull up across the road, a few minutes later I heard what I would later recognise as Martins knock (cluck cluck)

He was in good humour that day. I was introduced by Frederick I think and Martin asked how I was getting on. I can’t remember what I said but I know I was enthusiastic (I was already quite happily and voluntarily working many hours beyond my CE hours of 20) and I showed him the work I had been doing which was the typing up of the first ‘Leader Manual’ which Julie had been writing in conjunction with all the Leaders. He told me a few stories about CIL’s history and its people including the one about how he fell out of a plane. I think my eyes betrayed that I didn’t quite believe that one…!

There was a mutual liking and respect born that day and a few days later I found myself outside the Dáil overnight, firmly entrenched in CIL it’s philosophy and the CIL family less than 3 weeks in the job.



Rosaleen McDonagh:

It was 1980-something! My Confirmation. The nuns in Baldoyle were harassing my parents for money they didn’t have. It was awful embarrassing. Martin ran a sports club. They did fundraising. He organised money for new clothes and shoes for myself and my sister Mary. He knew things were difficult for Travellers. We didn’t have money for Confirmation. Also, when I was 15 Martin, who ran the swimming pool, gave me a job as his secretary. The person who normally held that position was on holiday. It was fantastic. Other kids went home during the holidays. This was not always possible for some of the children – me being one of them. Also, other children were good at sports or they went to secondary school outside the hospital, which was a rare privilege in those days. Anyway, I was secretary for Martin. This gave me a badly needed boost of pride and self-esteem. During that time Martin raised my consciousness, not just about disability issues but about women and believe it or not, yes, this man also was talking about Traveller rights.

My other memory – after I left Baldoyle, I lived in a site for 2 years in Ballymun. We had no water, no refuse collection, nothing. My wheelchair, I didn’t even have one. Day after day, for about 2 years I sat in my parents’ trailer/caravan. Then I was sent to a nursing home in Clontarf. It was the most lonely time in my life. Because secondary school was off limits to me and I’m still not sure why, at 19 or 20 I had no qualifications for anything. They sent me to a day centre in the IWA and CRC. At the time, I wanted so much more. It terrified me to think that at such a young age, this was all I had and I was supposed to be grateful. As luck would have it, in the day centre I asked somebody to write a letter for me – I had no address and the person that was writing could not make out Martin’s surname because of my speech. The letter was written, put in an envelope and the woman in the IWA promised me she’d find out who this Martin man was. Weeks went by. Months went by. Then one day, as I got out of the ‘special bus’ at the IWA, the driver shouting at me, there he was – Martin. All I remember is him saying ‘do you want to get a bit of breakfast? I don’t think the day centre will miss you today.’

And that was the start of my independence. He got me into college, into suitable accommodation, my first power chair which my family didn’t want me to have because in those days a Traveller woman was not entitled to any freedom. Often, I wonder what way my life would be if I hadn’t met Martin. No doubt in my mind I wouldn’t have lived as long of a life if he had not given the gift of dreaming, ambition and freedom.


Rosaleen Bradley:

I first met Martin in the summer of 1993 after taking a job as a PA with Joe T Mooney in Donegal. During the interview held in Joe’s mushroom houses, he’d asked me if I’d any experience driving to Dublin, where I assured him I had (had actually only ever been in Dublin once on a bus to a Tina Turner concert and had a licence for all of 2 weeks) but felt the chances of being asked to actually drive him to Dublin were slight so what the hell. About 10 days later Joe tells me we’re off to Dublin for a weekend’s training (nightmare) and staying with Martin.

We made it there and I waved loads at the many people blowing horns at me in the hope Joe thought I knew them. We finally got to Martins, one of us as glad as the other I’d say, me telling myse

lf I’d never tell a lie again and find myself another job next week given that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Within a few hours in Martin’s company though I was, let’s say, hooked!

I remember when I got talking to him myself, admitting my lie and intention to go again. He just laughed and said “you’re just what Joe needs and you’re going nowhere “. How right he was…
Twenty-four years, later having spent many of them early years with Martin in Dublin (with too many tales to tell), and since 1999 back here in the Donegal CIL, he remains in my heart guiding me over the years as he always has done. I can only hope that I meant to him half of what he meant to me. I’ll miss you forever Martin xxxx


John McDonald:

I met first met Martin in the Summer of 1969 or 1970 that was when I first went to Baldoyle. To me he was a leader and someone I looked up to over those years. I would have been regularly in trouble with the nuns and very frequently summoned to the convent to be reprimanded for some small thing or two. Martin would always jump to my rescue and smooth things over. Martin use to always organise regular trips to soccer matches and I remember one particular match Newcastle United were playing Dalymount Park. It was getting close to the end of the game and we decided to go ahead of the crowd. The chap that was helping me decided to bring me up the steps backwards on his own. Unfortunately the plastic cover around one of the handles of my chair came away and landed down the three steps damaging my ankle. I was taken into the United dressing room where the trainer strapped up the ankle. I got to meet the whole team getting lots of momentos, and I even met my hero, Malcolm McDonald.

After leaving Baldoyle I lost touch with Martin and the many friends then. Then just over a year ago I met Martin through AT (Áiseanna Tacaíochta) down in Waterford where I now live. On our last meeting, around a month before he passed away. I spoke with him by phone again when he informed me he had secured five hours for me from local HSE.  R.I.P.


Lorraine Cooke:

Happy birthday Martin! Some of you may have read the blog post that I wrote for By Us With Us. The first time that I met Martin I think was in the GDIL meeting room when it was located in Green Street.

The stories of people who knew Martin longer than me show how passionate he was for people with disabilities of any nature to be included. I learned this as for the first few times that we met I didn’t know what to say to him as without his vision of people with disabilities having a personal assistant service, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The disability protest that I did in 2015 gave me the opportunity to speak to Martin for the longest period that we ever got to speak. This was a clear memory for us both as on the last 2 occasions that we met at events in Blanchardstown, his response when routine formalities were happening was that he remembered me from that encounter.



Eugene Callan:

I absolutely cannot claim to have been at the beginning of the independent living movement. I met Martin in the late 1980s. Martin was organising MDI member holidays. Later we talked about a different model of living, the philosophy of independent living. I was living in Cheshire home for about 8 years at that time I witnessed first-hand how Department of Health was abjectly against the independent living model when we met them.

However, Martin Naughton, unwilling to let such inward looking bureaucrats prevent his mission, stepped right outside the Irish government and to bureaucrats and secured funding from the EU. Following on from this I was part of the working group overseeing Operation Get Out, the groundbreaking action to enable a pioneering group of people with disability to leave institutional care and become Leaders. However, it is a matter of regret that I didn’t have the independent spirit, or perhaps courage to move out of that institution myself, only following sometime later.

As many others will have commented and remembered, Martin liked lighting a flame in people and then watching them grow. He did so with me in spades. I spent 10 enjoyable years as a director and then chairman of CIL Carmichael House, during which I organised a resistance group to the cuts in PA funding during the financial crash. Thank you Martin.



Audrey Brodigan:

Many moons ago, myself, Martin, Ursula, Jimmy, Florence and PA’S booked two fabulous holiday homes in Spiddal and off we went for a week’s break. Flo was the Mammy, Ursula was the crazy one, I was the bold one and the men were just afraid and did what they were told. Ursula was out early every day in her bikini catching every ray of sun, Flo was up early cleaning every morning (she actually brought her own cleaning supplies with her). My room was upstairs so she couldn’t check it (it was bad) I just lived out of my bag, clothes everywhere and never made my bed, but she wouldn’t rest till she saw it and got Jimmy to go up and take photos think I was grounded that day.

Us girls went for a drive one day and Ursula made me drive down this really narrow half a road, myself and Flo terrified because there was nowhere to turn back. We just happened to be in the bloody sea and the tide started coming in which Ursula (no fear) thought was hilarious.

We checked out every pub and restaurant for miles around, myself and Ursula usually being the two drunkards who left everyone waiting in vans while we finished our dancing. Martin was outnumbered by the women and was too scared to give out. We laughed all week, stayed up half the night in front of a big fire playing cards and talking rubbish. One of my best holidays!


Aisling McCann:

I remember one time Joe, Hubert and Flo were on the phone talking about going to one of Martin ‘s meetings. It was to be held in Carmichael House on a Saturday morning at 10 30 . Of course this wasn’t a one of meeting. They had been the previous Saturday and during the week. The trio had decided not to go. You’d think Martin had heard their conversation as he rang the night before just to encourage or make sure they were going. All I heard was Joe saying ah I’ll be there Martin. When he went Flo and Hubert were there too. ! Martin was very kind to me down the years and was only a phone call away when Joe T died. Happy Birthday Martin.


Mary-Treasa Cahill-Kennedy:

I met Martin for the first time in 1991/2, At a conference can’t remember now exactly what one. I was at UCD at the time. I was involved as a student representative building awareness regarding access for student with disability etc. Martin asked me if I might be intrested in part time work on oporation get out which I was I was interviewed in a portocabin at side of carmichel house and hired Martin actually gave me my first job in the area. He belived in me and encouraged me. He thought me allot and to think of new ways of seeing things and finding solutions. I have continued with advocacy human rights work
Working in many diffrent areas with cross section of community groups and orgonisatins in society in the area of gender advocacy human rights community development.

It was an honnor to work with Martin and the team on Operation Get Out supporting and coaching young people with disabilities to live independently in their community place of choice; many had lived in communal settings up until this project. They were starting something new they managed and trained their own PAs. A lot of learning trailblazing the way and testing and sharing came out of it. Martin with others was always there supporting encouraging along the way.
Martin reminded us all many times to use our voice to bring about change and to support one another in what ever way we can. We may not always agree but that solidarity is important my friend. I always answered his call to come and show support for many a campaign and encouraged others too. He was always generous with his time when we bumped in to each other over the years where ever it was and so looked forward to those chats on the sidelines of events when he did get a moment.
Martin, you gave me confidence in myself that I was creative visionary and knew my way forward and could bring others along too on the journey to self-discovery. You introduced me to so many new supportive colleges out there. You gave me freedom within the role to carry out my duties in my own style in a supportive way. This gave a huge sense of freedom in that this allowed me to develop my skills, talents and become the person I am today! Thank you. We will keep fighting the fight all of us together men women children family friends all together. For a brighter better future which is built on respect inclusion choice and equality.


John Doyle:

I first meet Martin Naughton when he arrived in Baldoyle Hospital with Barbara. I was given the task of teaching him to speak English. The first phrase he spoke was Radio Nova Station of the Stars. Martin loved listening to his radio a love he kept all his life. Happy birthday Mo Chara


One thought on “Memories of Martin

  1. Well done to all those scribblers who wrote very moving and truthful words about Martin N.Thanks a I did learn a lot more from you and your interaction with Martin. No doubt is was a teacher and philosopher that will and should go down in the history books a decent comrade.


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