2012 Volunteer Ireland Awards, Sports and Recreation

Joe Murtagh, Special Olympics Ireland - Munster


Having been engaged and motivated by his experiences at the 2003 World Special Olympic Games in Ireland and as part of the post Games Legacy programme, Joe volunteered to work with  Special Olympics  in Munster. He had a particular interest in working with volunteers and took on the position of Volunteer Officer. One of the first tasks that he played a key role in was the setting up of a dedicated Volunteer Centre in the regional Office where volunteers could come during the day and evenings to assist the work of the programme in the recruitment and support of volunteers. This Volunteer Centre has proven to be a cornerstone in the organisation’s engagement of volunteers and nearly ten years on Joe can still be found most Wednesday evenings making/answering phone calls and sorting out problems.

In 2004 Joe, with a number of other interested individuals, recognised the need for a Community-based Special Olympics club in Cork City that would primarily cater for younger athletes. He again became a driving force in the setting up of the Leeside Legends Special Olympics Club and from an initial number of 10 athletes in 2004 the club now provides training on a weekly basis for 32 athletes in the sport of Athletics. He continues to be actively involved with this club.

Through his work with volunteers Joe developed a keen interest in the area of Event Management and in 2006 he took on the role of Regional Events Officer. The running of sports events is an important element of the work carried out by Special Olympics and over the past six years Joe has been instrumental in the recruitment, training and support of volunteer event teams. He has worked with a range of groups from the corporate, education and community sectors. A key element of his focus has been the need to have quality standards in all the events that we organise. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of a quality standard evaluation tool for our events in recent years. 

Like many volunteers Joe has also filled other roles within the organisation including, Head Coach for the Munster Swim team that participated at the 2006 Special Olympics Ireland Games that were held in Belfast and being a member of the Special Olympics Munster regional committee for the last nine years.

“It certainly was a very lucky day for Special Olympics in Munster when Joe decided to sign up as a volunteer as part of the World Games Legacy programme in 2003. His passion, commitment, knowledge and skills have been invaluable to the programme as it has attempted to grow and develop. Joe gives selflessly of his time as he balances his own work and family commitments with his Special Olympics involvement. He is not one for promoting his own achievements but his dedication is hugely valued by all in Special Olympics Munster.“

Photograph by Simon Della Fornce.