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Árainn Mhór teenager getting chance to live his dream

The clue is in the nickname. On Árainn Mhór, off the coast of Co Donegal, Boyle is a very common surname so, to tell them apart, many of the families have an extra name.

In the case of 17-year-old Seán Boyle’s family, they are the Sailor Boyles. The youngest of five, Seán Boyle Sailor “has the sea in his blood”.

His father and two older brothers are former fishermen and members of the island’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew and Seán sees his future on the sea as well.

The fact that Seán has Down syndrome will not stop him achieving his goal of working on the ferries which cross over and back daily between Ailt an Chorráin and Árainn Mhór from early morning to evening.

Seán Boyle is proud of his family’s seafaring tradition and always wanted to work on a ferry

The transition year student at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada on the island recently completed a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) safety course which will allow him to be employed on a boat or a ferry and already he has secured a transition work placement on both the blue and the red ferries.

Two of his brothers completed the BIM basic safety training course at the National Fisheries College in Greencastle before him and Seán said he wanted to do it too.

His mother, Elaine, and his teacher Florence Calais felt “why not?” and set the process in train.

Over three days, Seán completed the training which included first aid and sea survival techniques.

He loves the sea, he said, and is a good swimmer and the course was “no bother” to him.

Seán is very proud of his family background in fishing and the RNLI and now is very proud of his own achievement. So too, are his family and many friends.

His mother, Elaine, said that from a young age he would put on his wellies and follow his father and brothers to go out in the boat and has always spoken about wanting to work on a ferry.

Seán pictured working on the ferry

Now that he has his BIM safety card that’s achievable, she said.

Ms Boyle said Seán has always been up for a challenge and now he is a role model for others with additional needs, giving them inspiration to follow their dreams.

Starting his work placement on the blue ferry, it seems Seán is already one of the crew.

Up in the pilot house Séamus Boyle tells us that, in fact, Seán has been one of the crew since he was 4 or 5 when he started singing onboard.

“He would take up the microphone and sing the whole way across to the mainland,” he said.

Seán is the fourth member of his family to work on the ferry and Séamus had no doubt that Seán would pass his BIM course.

Séamus said Seán has already told him he will be working full-time on the ferry when he leaves school – something that he is not going to argue with.

Seán pictured at school working with his teacher Florence Calais

“He’s a breath of fresh air and we will be more than happy to take him on,” he added.

Seán’s teacher, Florence Calais, described him as “a wee star among the community and everyone is very proud of him”.

“He was determined to pass, worked very hard and has great potential,” she added.

Ms Calais said she would like to thank the local ferry companies and other businesses on the island that gave Seán work placements during transition year.

“They welcomed him with open arms”, she said, and she would love to see other companies follow their lead and give placements to students with additional needs.

They have so much to offer, Ms Calais added, and they would benefit if given the opportunities to realise their potential, and, like Seán, follow their dreams.


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