From the time her daughter Caroline was born, until she lost her brave fight against cancer in September of last year, Jennie Killen was at the forefront in the fight for services for people with mental handicap. She held positions of Chairman, Secretary, NAMHI delegate and newsletter editor in the Family and Friends’ Association of Cheeverstown House. Before that, she was active in the Parents’ Association for the Mentally Handicapped (PAM), and took part in public meetings at the Mansion House, rallies outside the Dáil and a sit-in in the Department of Health Offices–an experience she recounted with feeling in Frontline (9, 7 (Spring 1991). Jennie wrote several other articles for Frontline and Impact, and was an effective speaker at NAMHI meetings.
Jennie’s commitment was total. In April 1999, she stood in at the last minute as a Cheeverstown Association delegate to the NAMHI AGM. ‘Just give me the details.’ And she enjoyed the social side of that conference, and others before it. Jennie was a wonderful mother, friend and advocate for people with a mental handicap. She is sadly missed but will always be remembered by her friends in Cheeverstown House, NAMHI and at Sunshine House. ‘Ar dheis Dé go raibh an anam.’
Family and Friends’ Association of Cheeverstown
Jennie was always an articulate speaker and writer. In the terminology debate, she pointed out that the phrase ‘general learning disability’ seemed to imply that her daughter with profound and multiple disabilities was ‘a bit slow to learn her ABC’. She argued ‘When do I get my life?’ and she campaigned tirelessly for more residential and respite places to meet the crushing need of people like her, and those much older, who were struggling to care at home for children with severe disabilities.
In 1992, Jennie shared a personal landmark with Frontline readers. After countless health crises and sleepless nights with her daughter Caroline, her diary ‘The nightmare is over’ recorded the long-awaited offer of 5-day residential care. ‘As parents, we must continue the fight to ensure that every person with a mental handicap has, as a right, the care appropriate to their needs.’