John Sweetnam by his portrait with his mother Hazel at The Upside Mural at Cork City Library marking Down Syndrome Ireland’s 50th anniversary. Photos: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Vibrant mural to mark anniversary

The city centre has become a little more colourful thanks to Down Syndrome Ireland’s Cork branch.

The branch recently launched a 10 foot vibrant mural at Cork City Library to mark the charity’s 50th anniversary which features three people of different generations with Down syndrome, spanning the length of the building.

The mural entitled The Upside Wall was created by local artist Paul La Rocque and is part of a number of awareness building and fundraising activities that have taken place this celebratory year and coincides with Down Syndrome Awareness this month.

The Upside campaign focuses on the four key aspects of life for a person with Down syndrome - health, education, employment and life in the community which are represented in Paul’s artwork.

Paul’s mural is bright and uplifting pop art theme, similar to the style of Andy Warhol and features an adult, teenager and child with Down syndrome in a mixture of photography and art. Passers-by are encouraged to stop and look for various symbolic images in the mural including UCC, which symbolises education, and a bus which symbolises independence along with other services people with Down syndrome are entitled to.

The three people who feature in the mural include John Sweetnam who celebrated his 51st birthday on Friday. John’s mother Hazel, who also features in the mural, was key in setting up Down Syndrome Ireland’s Cork branch back when parents had to fight tooth and nail for what were the most basic of services let alone rights.

Four year old Harry Brassel from Cork city whose mum Orla regularly shares on her popular social media channel ‘At Home with Harry’ which has grown a big following also features. So too does teenager Lily Aitkenson from Ballincollig whose mum Brenda volunteers with Down Syndrome Cork and calls her “a bright fun-loving teenager who has brought so much happiness to our family”.

John said: “Seeing my face on the mural has helped make my 51st birthday extra special today. I want to thank my mum Hazel who set up Down Syndrome Cork and also features on the mural! The branch has been a great support to me and my family and to lots of other families in Cork.”

Barry Sheridan, CEO, Down Syndrome Ireland said: “Following our mural in Dublin this summer, we are thrilled to see Cork following suit with a spectacular mural that will drive awareness for people with Down syndrome in the community.

“We encourage all to visit where you can view positive stories and our 21 demands which aim to secure the same basic rights and opportunities as everyone to develop their capabilities to the fullest.”

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Colm Kelleher and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney launched the mural recently.

Minister Coveney said: “This is a very special day for the people of Cork and nationwide. The 50th anniversary of Down Syndrome Ireland marks an important milestone for a better future where re-dedicate ourselves to building a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realise their life’s aspirations and become valued members of a welcoming society.”

To find out more about The Upside campaign and to make a donation visit