One hundred extra young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are to gain experience on board tall ships and other vessels.
Extra funding for Sail Training Ireland (STIRL) was announced on Friday by Irish defence minister Paul Kehoe.
It will benefit young people from disadvantaged areas, including travellers and people with disabilities.
Mr Kehoe, accompanied by Minister with disabilities minister Finian McGrath, announced the provision of a grant of â¬85,000 in 2019 and again in 2020.
STIRL’s youth ambassador Dylan Nelson, 24, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, says he would love to see more young people get involved.
“The word I use most is equality, and everyone aboard the ship – no matter what ability you have – is equal,” he said.
“I was once caught in a storm on board during a voyage. I flew out of my wheelchair which was strapped in during gale force winds. So, yeah, I’ve had a few eventful moments.
“But on board, there’s no difference between me and you, whether it’s early starts, sailing itself or washing the dishes.
“I’d like to see more young people, it doesn’t matter where you come from, get in touch with Sail Training Ireland and we’ll get you out sailing.”
In 2018, Sail Training Ireland placed 341 young people on training vessels.
More than 90 percent of them were from disadvantaged backgrounds and over 25 percent of those placed on voyages had a disability.
Trainees are selected by nominating organisations, including HSE, Garda Diversion Projects, Tulsa, Irish Wheelchair Association and the Irish Refugee Council.
A total of 37 nominating organisations provided trainees for placement in 2018.
In terms of gender balance, of the 341 trainees in 2018, 185 were male with 156 female.
Trainees have come from over 25 counties in Ireland which includes five in Northern Ireland.
Speaking on board the Brian Boru vessel at Poolbeg Yacht Club in Dublin, Minister Kehoe said: “Many of the young people that will be selected for these projects have experienced significant difficulties and hardships in their lives.
“In some instances, the opportunities provided by Sail Training Ireland have allowed young people to turn their lives around.”
Minister McGrath believes the initiative is be a model for other sporting groups to follow.
He said: “This is all about creating a more inclusive society.
“Sail Training Ireland have shown their commitment to working with people with a disability and work to teach new skills and develop young people’s self esteem.”
- Press Association