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Symposium brings together key stakeholders in Irish sport to seek to increase disability participation in grassroots sports clubs

Liberty Insurance AccessAbility Symposium brings together stakeholders, including Sports Ireland, Active Disability Ireland, IWA Sport, Vision Sport Ireland, NCBI, GAA, IRFU, and others to discuss pathways to grow participation rates amongst individuals with disabilities.  

AccessAbility symposium 

Representatives of sports governing bodies and leading disability advocates, including The Irish Times Columnist Joanne O’Riordan and Health Professional, non-exec Director and Speaker Jack Kavanagh were among the participants at the AccessAbility Symposium in Croke Park last Thursday 20th July., Dublin. The event, organised and hosted by Liberty Insurance, explored how the Irish sports community and its stakeholders can grow participation rates amongst individuals with disabilities.  

Hosted by Newstalk Off The Ball’s John Duggan, the event also included contributions from Minister for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD, Active Disability Ireland, Sports Ireland, Vision Sports Ireland, IWA Sport and the NCBI. 

The event saw lively and thought-provoking discussions throughout the day, with panel discussions focussing on both existing barriers and solutions moving forward. Alongside these discussions were a series of presentations and examples of gold standard, accessible clubs, including Sailability Kinsale, Le Cheile Athletics Kildare and Limerick Celtics Basketball. 

Over the coming weeks, Liberty Insurance will be publishing key recommendations emerging from the symposium. 


The event came following a nationwide survey of grassroots sports clubs, commissioned by Liberty: 

§     Key challenges cited include inadequate facilities and / or sports equipment (65%), lack of funding (35%), lack of appropriate training amongst volunteers / staff (33%), with others unsure if there would be sufficient interest to justify investment (19%); 

§     94% believe all sports clubs should cater to individuals with disabilities, however, only less than three in ten clubs have it specified in their club charter or mission statement;  

§     While 42% of clubs have players or athletes with disabilities, 37% of clubs have no disabled members; 

§     More than four in five (87%) grassroots Irish sports clubs want to do more to support individuals with disabilities. 

Moving Forward 

Liberty is committed to creating a more inclusive society for people with disabilities and according to the European Commission*, sport provides people living with a disability an opportunity to increase their participation in society, showcase their talents and challenge stereotypes. The commission further states that sport and physical activity promote tolerance, solidarity and inclusiveness. 

Following the AccessAbility Symposium, Liberty Insurance will publish a set of recommendations to be shared with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the Department of Sport, with the shared goal of making sport available to everyone in the community.  

Officially opening the event, Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte TD, said: 

“I was delighted to officially open this important event and to see so many sporting organisations, clubs, members and activists attend. 

“Ensuring that people with disabilities have access to sport is a really important goal for me, my department and the government, and an event like this which looks to highlight the barriers we need to overcome and to identify solutions is so valuable in that regard. 

“I’d like to thank Liberty Insurance for facilitating this really important conversation, and look forward to working with all the relevant stakeholders on continuing to make our society more and more inclusive.” 

 Speaking at the AccessAbility Symposium, Sylvia Coldrick, of Liberty Insurance, said: 

“Our research demonstrates that there is a clear appetite on the part of these clubs to do more to support new and existing members with disabilities, and to ensure that they feel welcome and involved at all levels of the club.  

“However, there are practical barriers at play, and resource-thin clubs need greater support on this journey. There is clearly a need for greater Government investment at all levels of Irish sport, but particularly in making sports facilities more accessible to those with disabilities.  

 “Secondly, there is an evident chicken and egg dynamic at play whereby sports clubs want to do more to welcome and engage individuals with disabilities but are unsure if there is sufficient levels of interest on the part of those with disabilities to justify the investment. This suggests a need for greater dialogue between sports bodies and the relevant support functions in their community. 

 “We hope our AccessAbility Symposium will help shine a light on the practical and cultural challenges at play and identify how we can make organised sport more accessible and inclusionary to everyone in the community.” 


In September 2023, Liberty Insurance, in partnership with the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), will host its annual Run’n’Roll 2.5k/5k in St Annes Park, Raheny. The purpose of the race is to demonstrate solidarity and allyship with individuals with disabilities.  

For more information and to register, visit  

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