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“I couldn’t believe that I had been selected!”

This week, Margaret Turley and the nine other new Sargent Shriver Global Messengers (SSGMs) from the 2024 to 2027 cohort are embarking on an intensive week of training in Washington DC. Just before Margaret flew out, we took the opportunity to get to know her a little better with a one-to-one interview.
A Woman in basketball bib smiles at the camera while holding a basketball.
Margaret Turley, one of ten new Sargent Shriver Global Messengers (SSGMs), represented Ireland in basketball at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Photo credit: Special Olympics Ireland.

In January 2024, it was announced that Margaret Turley, from Kilkenny, Ireland, was to become one of ten SSGMs for the period 2024 to 2027. She joined Gilmour Borg from Special Olympics Malta as one of two messengers representing the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia region. SSGM is a prestigious and coveted spokesperson role which will see Margaret, Gilmour and the eight other messengers representing the Special Olympics movement, and their fellow athletes, to the world. Before Margaret flew to the USA, she took the time to answer some questions about her journey so far and her hopes for this new role and adventure!

How did you discover the exciting news that you were one of the new SSGMs?
I discovered the exciting news when the Special Olympics Ireland team played a video from Tim Shriver where he made the announcement that I was successful with my SSGM application.

Where were you, who were you with and what was your reaction?
I was invited to the Special Olympics Ireland office with my family and friends, where there was a ‘get together’ organised to find out if my application for the SSGM role was successful or not. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. At first, I was shocked, I couldn’t believe that I had been selected. Then I was emotional but very happy and excited to take on this new challenge.

A woman and a man in formal wear shake hands in front of a screen that says ‘EY4All’
Margaret Turley greeting Ireland’s former Minister for Health and current Taoiseach (Prime Minister) at her workplace, EY.

What part of the role of SSGM are you most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to seeing what other countries and Special Olympics Programmes do, what ideas they have and working with my fellow SSGM’s. Additionally, I am excited to represent and be the voice for athletes from Ireland and [along with fellow SSGM Gilmour Borg from Malta] Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. I look forward to bringing ideas and initiatives from my fellow athletes to the international stage and making a positive change for my peers.

In your opinion, why is SSGM an important role in our movement?
SSGM is an important role in the movement as it provides an opportunity for athletes to take on leadership roles and gives athletes a platform for their voice to be heard which contributes to changes and decisions that are made within the Special Olympics movement. The role instils confidence in the SSGM that they can advocate for themselves and their fellow athletes. It makes athletes feel like their ideas and opinions are validated.

How long have you been a part of Special Olympics and how has Special Olympics impacted your life?
I have been involved in Special Olympics since 2015. Special Olympics has impacted my life by providing me with a community in which I can get fit and participate in sport. I have made friends for life through Special Olympics and been provided with leadership opportunities through my role as a Health Messenger and Athlete Leader. These opportunities have increased my confidence and ability to advocate for myself and others.

A woman smiles at the camera with text below her reading ‘My Decisions. My Rights’
Margaret Turley was one of the Champions featured in the recent, ‘My Decisions, My Rights’ public information campaign.

What was your greatest moment in Special Olympics so far?
My greatest moment in Special Olympics so far was when I represented Ireland at the World Summer Games in Berlin in June 2023. I was playing Basketball for the Irish team, and we won gold in the ladies final against tough opponents. It was such a proud moment with a sea of green cheering for us from the stands. My family and friends were all in Berlin to support me. It was my first World Games and hopefully not my last!

Do you have any role models (inside or outside of Special Olympics)?
My brother and sister are my role models, when I was younger they were going to college and were learning to drive a car. They pushed me and encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. I did not want to be left behind. I was going to achieve things in my life like they achieved in theirs. So, I worked hard to go and study in Trinity College in Dublin and I learnt how to drive a car and passed my driving test! I have not look back. Now I am still achieving both in my work and in Special Olympics. My siblings were so proud of when I was chosen in the SSGM role!

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