'The world needs more Sinéads' – GAA star Michael Darragh McAuley praises Vogue UK's Contributing Editor after street incident

“The world needs more Sinéads”, says multiple All-Ireland winning Dublin GAA star Michael Darragh McAuley when describing his friend and contributing editor at Vogue UK Sinéad Burke.

McAuley, who is a programme officer with Dublin NEIC, a regeneration project for Dublin’s north east inner city, is commending Sinéad for how she reacted to a shocking incident on the streets of Dublin last month.

She is “superwoman”, he says.

As Sinéad was walking to meet a friend near O’Connell street, two teenage boys approached her. One leaped over her while the other recorded the incident on his phone.

“They seemed proud of themselves, proud of their actions. They knew that their content, my harassment, could go viral or be an instant pass to popularity among their peer group. I was devastated,” she wrote last month.

The mockery she was subjected to left her deeply upset, and Michael Darragh was one of the people she contacted directly after the incident. She knew that if she could help motivate a change in attitudes towards dwarfism among young people, he would be able to help.

Michael Darragh recalls: “She just rang me straight away pretty much after that incident, it happened where I’m working at the moment. She had a lot of foresight about it and wasn’t angry about it as such, but she was concerned about the incident and the wider parameters and how you can affect change, and she thought education was the definitive way to do that.”

“Sinéad just went in to schools and basically told her story. I think it’s had a huge effect. We’re working with more schools, and I know that every child she’s worked with will now take a different look towards little people for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s an understanding thing, and that’s why we really have to compliment Sinéad in how she looked at it.”

“Sinéad’s superwoman, I can’t keep up with her. She does amazing things on a daily basis and is very motivated. The world needs more Sinéads.”

Michael Darragh, 2013’s Footballer of the Year, is himself working with young people in areas like Ballybough, Seán McDermott Street,and Sherrif Street near Croke Park, to encourage them to take part in sports.

“We have lots of different projects, and it’s about trying to give people more opportunities, to get into sport, and get active. There are huge social benefits and that’s the big thing that exercise does, particularly when you do team sports, whether it’s for a yoga class or a swimming class, you’re with people, and maybe some people take that for granted, but for others it’s a big life change to feel included like that.”

“I’ve had numerous families growing up, I’ve had football families, club families, county families. That’s what they become – families – and it’s a sense of belonging.”

Michael Darragh, who is a yoga instructor, also leads yoga classes for people who are living with lung fibrosis once a month in Dublin.

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, the most common form of fibrosis, is a rare, chronic, progressive condition that causes irreversible scarring of the lungs.

It is characterised by extreme breathlessness, low energy and fatigue, dry cough and, ultimately, respiratory failure requiring medical oxygen therapy 24 hours a day.

Michael Darragh leads a new yoga DVD produced by the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association which takes viewers through a series of breathing and meditation techniques alongside physical exercises.

The issue is close to Michael Darragh’s heart, since his late father Michael had the condition.

“My father unfortunately had lung fibrosis and sadly passed away in 2012. It was a very tough time for all the family as you can imagine. Consequently, I was very happy to become involved in this DVD which I hope will make a real difference to the lives of people with lung fibrosis.

“I have a deep appreciation of yoga and the holistic benefits it offers across a whole range of areas. Even though it becomes increasingly difficult to exercise with this condition, it’s important that patients do try, and yoga is perfect because they can push themselves as hard as they see fit.”

“In the video we go through a series of exercises that can help people manage their health and cope with the challenges of living with the condition. The great thing is that the exercises can be done whether seated or standing and can be adapted to suit each individual’s abilities. People can go at their own pace and no one gets left behind.”

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