Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries


 A Donegal teenager with Down Syndrome who has a passion for the sea has taken a big step towards following his dream to work in the marine sector.

Sixteen-year-old Seán Boyle recently passed his three-day Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Basic Safety Training course which will allow him to work on a boat or ferry.

Séan, who lives on Árainn Mhór Island and who is described as having “sea blood” running through his veins, is the third brother in his family to undergo the training. He got his love of the sea from his fisherman father, John.

A Transition Year student at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada on Árainn Mhór, Seán had to undergo three days of training at the BIM National Fisheries College in Greencastle to receive his safety card. The training involved tasks such as jumping into a pool with safety gear, going on a life raft on his own and doing elementary first aid. Seán excelled in everything that came his way.

Seán’s mother, Elaine, said the family couldn’t be prouder of Seán who is the youngest of five children. 

Said Elaine: Seán is a brilliant character and people person and doesn’t let much get in his way! Our family is steeped in fishing tradition and as soon as he could walk, Seán would put on his wellies and follow his Dad when he was going out in the boat.”


Pictured with Séan are his parents John and Elaine in Burtonport after the 16years old helped on the Arranmore Ferry.
Photo Brian Farrell

Seán learned to swim when he was younger, getting the ferry every Saturday with his mother across to the mainland to take lessons in Letterkenny pool. It took him longer than usual to learn to swim. “It was a real commitment, but he was determined,” said Elaine. 

He wants to work on our local ferry, and this is now something achievable because he has passed his safety training which has provided him with a life skill which will help him in the long term to get a job and be more independent,” she said.

A delighted Seán said: “If my brothers can do it why shouldn’t I! I am really looking forward to working on a boat some day.”

Seán’s teacher, Florence Calais, helped him apply for the BIM training, and the plan is he will do his TY work placement in the coming weeks on one of the island ferries.

Seán is a lovely lad and a pure joy to teach. When he completed the training, it was announced on the intercom at school, and all the students lined up in the corridor to cheer Seán on when he arrived back.”

Seán is very outgoing, and he does project work in class which suits him better. He loves to learn having fun. I believe people can often learn more outside of the curriculum and school by seeing how the world works and meeting people.” she said.


Garvan Meehan, Principal of the BIM National Fisheries College of Ireland in Greencastle, said: “It was a joy to have Seán on the course in Greencastle. He completed all the tasks with no problems and was so excited to have his training card which is an important step forward towards achieving his goal to work at sea.”

Seán is a great example that you can achieve your dreams if you are determined and committed and supported in doing so.”

Barry Sheridan, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, said: “We’re all incredibly proud of Sean and his achievement. It’s such an impressive qualification, and we know that Sean is going to be an asset to any vessel he serves on.”

We at Down Syndrome Ireland, and all our branches and members, are constantly trying to forge new opportunities for people with Down syndrome, and Sean is a real trailblazer. I know Sean’s Bord Iascaigh Mhara card will be the passport to a brilliant future”.

Séan on Arranmore Ferry.  Photo Brian Farrell


Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, congratulated his fellow Donegal native, Seán, on his “incredible achievement”, and wished him the best of luck with his future career at sea.

An inclusive culture and spirit of opportunity, where everyone has the chance to contribute and achieve their dreams, is vital. Diversity and inclusion adds to the richness of our society   and I am delighted for Seán.”

BIM is the primary training body for the seafood industry in Ireland, and runs Basic Safety Training at its National Fisheries Colleges in Greencastle, Co. Donegal, Castletownbere, Co. Cork, and two mobile coastal training units around our coastlines.