Robert O'Neill
Robert O’Neill

It is with deepest sympathy that I am writing this piece to relay the sad news of the premature passing of Mr. Robert O’Neill (RIP).

Robert was not only a strong ambassador for DEBRA Ireland but he became a personal and true friend very quickly, one that has touched the hearts of many.

His straight talking and ability to address the hundreds had him a regular spot at the annual DEBRA Ireland Ball. People were in awe of his passion and ability to talk about his journey in a way that put others at ease and allowed them a glimpse of what it was like to live with E.B.

Known by his friends and family as ‘Bob’, he had this amazing attitude and spark for life! Never one to dwell on a situation his attitude was to “build a bridge and get over it”. It was this strength and ability to pick himself up got him through his life. That and of course his family.

I heard a story recently of when Bob was a child learning to cycle his bike. He had stabilisers on it (as most children did ). But not Bob! Shortly after mastering the first milestone he wondered about the stabilisers and began to question the necessity of them at all! Always one for thinking about the next project – it wasn’t long before Bob took things into his own hands and was seen to be banging the stabilisers of his bike off the pavement in his garden until he was able to get them off! And sure as faith he did and never looked back!

It was this ability to overcome obstacles even as a child that would be the characteristics that would allow him to overcome one of the biggest journeys of his life.

He never let anything stand in his way. If he couldn’t get to his destination point in life one way well then he devised his own route and got there that way.

He not only sat on the Board of Directors of DEBRA Ireland but also successful completed a business degree in UL and went on to enter full time employment working to help support people with disabilities until quite recently.

Rob & Deirdre
Rob & Deirdre

Bob has had by anyone’s standards a tough number of final years and it would be easy to get lost in the dark parts. But it is so important to remember all he achieved and packed in right to the end. Bob designed and over saw the build of his own property where he lived independently right to the end. In March 2009 he went on a holiday of a life time with his family and came back bitten by the bug of Las Vegas. This prompted him to run a Casino night in his home in aid of DEBRA Ireland. The event took place on the 8th May 2009 and was undoubtedly a major success raising in excess of €5,461. Over 120 people descended on his home that had been transformed into a scene from Casino Royal! The black tie event hosted everything from a full casino to best dressed lady and included amazing spot prizes on the night. As we sipped on cocktails and danced into the wee hours, it was never more evident of the amount of people Bob touched. The next morning those of us who remained till the end were treated to a full Irish courtesy of Anna and the gang.

Then Bob got to finally drive his dream car – a Red Ferrari.

Often I would witness people referring to Bob’s amazing attitude and his ability to cope right to the end (me included) but seeing and getting to know the whole O’Neill family firsthand, it wasn’t that hard to see where Bob learnt his love of live and ability to cope.

Bob sadly passed away in the early hours of 25th June 2009 in the arms of his loving family – his parents Derek and Anna and his sister Suzi. We here in DEBRA Ireland would like to pass on all our condolences to the O’Neill’s during this very sad and difficult time.

He is truly an inspiration of what can be achieved despite limitations and he will be sadly missed.

– Deirdre Callis