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Breaking records and barriers

Northern Irish Songstress Andrea Begley has a new single and an exciting new role as the Chairperson of RNIB’s Network Committee.

Image of Andrea and Philomena Begley sitting on stairs and smiling

Alongside touring, singing and performing, Andrea – who is blind and was a former winner of BBC show The Voice, is on a mission to break down barriers for blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland.

Having just finished a tour with her aunt, famous Irish country singer Philomena Begley, Andrea is enjoying performing her new single, ‘Beyond the Rainbow’s End’ - a cover of Daniel O’Donnell song, and said: “I performed the song with Daniel on a TV show a few years ago and just fell in love with it. Daniel and my aunt Philomena go back a long way and he was happy for me to cover it.”

Andrea, 32, has Glaucoma - an eye condition that affects pressure within the eye and means that she only has approximately ten per cent of her vision remaining. As well as performing continually around the province, she also works full-time as a civil servant.

If that isn’t enough, Andrea, who is a huge advocate for equality and the rights of people with disabilities, has taken on the role of Chairperson of RNIB’s Network Committee – a group of 11 members of the community who are uniting their areas of expertise to ensure sight loss charity RNIB fulfils its objectives to empower people with sight loss to thrive and help break down barriers in society.

She said: “Yes, I have been an RNIB NI volunteer for 13 years now so I’m absolutely honoured to be an ambassador for RNIB in Northern Ireland and chair the Network Committee. Growing up as a young person with sight loss, I know first-hand, the challenges and problems you can experience.”

She added: “Barriers need to be broken down for people with sight loss and awareness needs to be raised in society. In delivering this, we can bring about change and this is crucial. If we can ensure that blind and partially sighted people are at the forefront of people’s minds, particularly of those in government when bringing out new legislation, then accessibility will be considered.

“I believe we can achieve this, or at least make a dent in the lack of awareness. I am realistic but I am also ambitious. Social change will have a positive knock on effect for people with sight loss.”

Andrea added: “I also believe that we should talk about all of the good things that are happening and celebrate the achievements of blind and partially sighted people, of which there are many. I will continue to play my part in making sure blind and partially sighted people can live their best lives.”

And how does she find the time for everything? Andrea said: “It can be a challenge, but I feel very passionate about what I do. It can be tricky at times, but I have got great support from my friends and family and my fellow musicians, so it all works out.”

Jacqueline Witherow, Director of RNIB Northern Ireland, said: “Andrea has been involved with RNIB since she was 19, working with us as a volunteer, campaigner and ambassador. Since her appointment as Chairperson of our Northern Ireland Network Committee, her personal experience and passion for issues around sight loss have been invaluable in driving forward the work of the organisation.”

Andrea’s single is out now and is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify and you can purchase Andrea’s album "The Message" and her book ‘I Didn't See That Coming’ from her new website

To find out more about the RNIB Network Committee, contact RNIB’s Laura Cummings on 028 9033 4132, or email [email protected]. For urgent out-of-hours enquiries, please call 07763 579 141.