is a native of Naas, born at Newbridge Road, in 1957. She
has played a major role in the Special Olympic movement
since 1978. The best way to outline Rita's praise for the
Special Olympics and its involvement in her life can be
summed up in the following extract from her book Moving
"I started with the Special Olympics in 1978. Since
then, the Special Olympics has opened up a whole new world
for me. It has helped me to meet new people and trust them.
It has helped me to travel on my own."
"Gymnastics is my sport. I have learned a lot of gymnastic
skills, and the greatest joy for me was to represent Ireland
in the International Games in South Bent, USA in 1987. I
went on to win the all-round competition."
"Having the chance to compete in gymnastics has given
me the courage and confidence to do my daily job. Now I
am a gymnastics coach in Bayside, Dublin. I have been able
to share my joy and happiness with my friends and family.
I have made them feel proud of me."
Rita was one of twelve athletes appointed
to the global messengers for the Special Olympics in 1998,
the organisations' thirteenth anniversary. This position
took her to America, where she met Muhammed Ali, President
Clinton and representatives of groups for people who experienced
discrimination due to disability. In 1990 she co- founded
the Dublin Self-Advocacy Group to campaign for the rights
of people with learning difficulties and improve the way
we look at these people and their abilities, partly by asking
the public not to use the term "mentally handicapped"
and calling for people with learning difficulties to be
shown in the media more often.