“YOU may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit,” the inspirational Christine Birney told a stammering awareness meeting in Irvinestown Methodist Hall.

The north Fermanagh woman has been living with a stammer since the age of four and was a victim of bullying throughout her school years.

But since taking part in a Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) exhibition called ‘My Journey, My Voice’ several years ago, her confidence, self-esteem and overall communication has come on leaps and bounds.

To mark this year’s International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD), Christine organised an awareness event locally, one of many that took place across the UK.

During her speech in Irvinestown Methodist Hall, she said that people who stammer were “invisible and inaudible”.

She said: “People who stammer hardly ever appear in any kind of high profile media. Those who do are often so fluent that you can hardly blame the public, the 99 per cent of people who don’t stammer, for thinking that stammering is no problem, and concluding that there’s no need to worry about it.”

Christine said that people who stammer did not want sympathy, but rather to be treated as individual human beings, with a secure place in the community.

She also spoke quite a bit on the importance of friendships in life in general, as well as having them whilst living with a communication disability.

She said: “A while back, someone told me that “Women are like teabags, you don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water”. That phrase means that nobody, including myself, don’t realise how strong we are, until we are thrown in at the deep end.

“I have had support to get here, but I couldn’t have done it alone. We must therefore reach out to one another, go out on a limb, take a chance.

“We will stumble along the way, but the rewards are so much greater than finding we are choked by our own silence.”

Christine said she had been able to speak to a huge number of people over the last two years about her stammer, which showed that she was comfortable with it and at a comfortable stage of her life.

As she drew her speech to a close, she said: “I am more than my stammer. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin a friend and a role model at Pettigo Methodist Girls’ Brigade. But above all else, I am a human being and I still have a voice, which I want to have heard.”

Fermanagh and Omagh District Councillor, Raymond Farrell, was the guest speaker at the event.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Farrell said: “A stammer can impact one’s confidence and self-esteem, leading in many instances to avoidance and social anxiety. This can lead to problems with employment and  making friendships.

“Christine, among many others, has sought to be proactive in challenging stigma and inaccuracies around the subject and has made a very positive decision to move on with her life.”