“I made an official visit, as President of Ireland, to Saint Mary of the Angels to celebrate its 25th anniversary. From the moment we arrived we captured the unique caring atmosphere there and could immediately see what a tremendous resource it is to the people who benefit from the service and their families. A 50th anniversary is an important achievement. I would like to congratulate Saint Mary of the Angels, wish all involved a wonderful celebration to mark the event and wish every success over the next 50 years!”
—Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland
Live stream and recordings from the Chapel at St Mary of the Angels
What is St Mary Of The Angels?
St Mary of the Angels is home to 76 people with physical and intellectual disabilities ranging from moderate to profound. Many residents have been living here for most of their lives. St Mary of the Angels is set on a peaceful 30-acrecampus in beautiful rural surroundings near Beaufort, in the heart of the local community in County Kerry, Ireland. Many of the residents cannot speak for themselves. We, their parents and relatives, are their voices.
St Mary of the Angels was founded as a residential facility for children with varying degrees of disability by the Franciscan Sisters in 1968 on land donated to them by local couple Denis and Mary Doyle in 1964. Thanks to the pioneering vision and forward thinking of the Franciscan Sisters it gained widespread recognition as a model of care unlike any other. In May 2005, services and ownership were transferred from the Franciscan Sisters to the Hospitaller Order of St John of God. Today it is operated by Saint John of God Community Services Limited.
What is Happening?
The HSE had planned to remove the residents of St Mary of the Angels from this wonderful community and disperse them throughout the wider community in County Kerry as part of their current 'Time to Move On' policy.
When the parents and relatives learned of these plans, the Saint Mary of the Angels (SMOA) Parents and Relatives Association was formed in the autumn of 2016. Through their hard work and dedication, the immediate closure threat has been averted for the time being. Now we concentrate on raising funds to further improve the lives of the residents and and to secure the long-term future of our loved-ones' home. Our achievements since forming the association are listed here.
On 1st October 2020, the current service provider SJOG announced it plans to end its service arrangement with the Health Service Executive and to transfer responsibility for the operation of its services directly to the HSE over the next 12 months.
WHAT do we want?
We want the HSE and the Government to recognise that St Mary of the Angels is not the type of 'congregated setting' or 'institution' that their policy 'Time to Move On' is aimed at. Minister Finian McGrath said on 18th October 2016 in the Dáil: "I totally accept the important point that not all people residing at St. Mary of the Angels in Beaufort will be suitable for transitioning to community living." We want him to live up to that realisation and recognise that all types of living arrangements (at home with support, community living and living in larger residential settings with on-site services and support) are valid options and none of them should be explicitly denied to people.
We ask the Government and HSE to suspend and review the 'Time to Move on' policy as it is not fit for purpose and unfairly restricts the rights of persons with a disability to freely chose what types of living arrangements suit them. We also ask them to officially recognise St Mary of the Angels as a valid Special Community so that it can secure the necessary funding to bring all units on campus fully in line with HIQA standards.
Ultimately we hope that St Mary of the Angels can serve as a model of how people with moderate to profound physical and intellectual disabilities can live and be cared for in a campus-based community which is set right in the heart of and strongly connected with the wider community. Ireland and the world can learn from 50 years of innovation and forward thinking by the Franciscan Sisters.
In a meeting with Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities Anne Rabbitte, Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD Brendan Griffin and officials from HSE and Department of Health on 28th April 2021,we requested:
- To have a seat at the decision making table.
- That there be a written undertaking that SMOA will never be a sellable commodity. A provider, upon ceasing running the facility, would have to sign over the deeds to the new care provider. This should be an agreement in perpetuity.
- The onsite services and facilities should be accessible to people with disabilities throughout Kerry, as they cannot be accessed elsewhere.