Minister to help source funds for documentary on Joanne’s life

A junior minister has intervened to help a teenager born without limbs source funding to finish a film on her life.

Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock stepped in to help Joanne O’Riordan after the Irish Examiner revealed last week how the Irish Film Board (IFB) had rejected her film-making brother Steven’s application for funding to complete the documentary.

Donations and offers of help poured in afterwards from the public and film production companies. “About 40 people have contacted me, promising to support the project,” Steven said.

“People really want to donate and make sure Joanne’s story comes to the screen.

“And they’ve been very generous. One lady from England has already donated €500.

“In the next day or two I’m going to set up a bank account, so the donations can properly managed.

“But I now feel confident we can reach the target of €80,000 and get the film made.”

However, Mr Sherlock confirmed last night there may also be an opportunity to source funding through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). A crucial meeting will take place later this month to discuss the project.

“It’s early days yet but it is a positive first step,” Mr Sherlock said.

Joanne, 16, who lives in Millstreet, Co Cork, is one of only seven people in the world with total amelia syndrome.

She was born without legs or arms and has become an outspoken campaigner for disability rights.

Steven has been shooting No Limbs, No Limits for over a year and travelled with Joanne to a UN science and technology conference earlier this year where she challenged scientists to invent a robot that could help her with daily tasks.

Days later, Mr Sherlock set up a meeting between Joanne and SFI boss Professor Mark Ferguson to discuss how Irish scientists could help.

Steven hoped the IFB would finance the last section of the documentary — which included a planned visit to the Philippines in October with the Sisters of Mercy, where Joanne was due to meet a 12-year-old boy Jésus who was born with the same condition.

But Steven was devastated last week when the film board turned his application down.

Mr Sherlock said funding may be available through SFI and it will be discussed at the meeting.

“I know from my discussions with Prof Ferguson, that they are very anxious to do more to engage with the public on the excellent scientific research that’s going on in our institutions,” he said.

“I feel Joanne’s story presents a good opportunity to show how Irish science can impact positively on an individual.

“It’s early days but the important thing is that we recognise the challenges that Joanne has, and being the dynamic person she is, who better to articulate that than her.”

Meanwhile, Joanne is due to give a talk in Maynooth tomorrow as part of a conference organised by Foróige, where she will tell children from all over the world how she has remained so positive and of the importance of technology in her life.


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