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Local fireman fighting ‘stammer stigma’

A FIREFIGHTER who grew up outside Omagh has received widespread praise after bravely opening up about his daily struggles with his stammer.

Peter Bradley (31), who is originally from Clanabogan, but now lives in Belfast, features in a two-and-a-half minute video clip called, ‘The fireman who’s fighting stammer stigma’, that went live on the BBC News NI website at the weekend.

Many of the people commenting on the story describe the popular 31-year-old, who used to work behind the bar in Sallys nightclub, as “inspiring”.

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In the video, Mr Bradley, who is based at Cadogan Fire Station on Lisburn Road in Belfast, explains what it is like to live with a stammer.

“Sometimes people laugh and they think it’s a weakness or a sign of nervousness, but it’s much more than that,” he says.

He describes his stammer as a “physical struggle” that’s caused by a neurological condition.

“So the language pathway in the brain, the activity’s different for someone that stammers and it’s hereditary for most. I’ve got family members that stammer and lost theirs, but I’ve been lucky to keep mine,” the firefighter says.

During the interview, Mr Bradley reveals that he had to drop out of his university degree, which was hospital-based, because he couldn’t cope with communicating with the public anymore.

“It definitely has been a struggle at times. But I’m very happy to be where I’m at now,” he says.

Describing living with a stammer as a “journey you have to take”, Mr Bradley says, “Every day I have to communicate with my team members in real emergency situations, where it’s important to, and with the general public too, to pass on messages of fire safety and education. From every word to every syllable, every day it can be different.”

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The Tyrone man admits that he finds it harder to speak to people if they see stammering as a negative thing.
But he adds, “If you’re speaking to someone who has a stammer, give them the time because it’ll be worth the wait.”

Away from his firefighting duties, Mr Bradley said his life has changed for the better after he started to give talks to school children – although he conceded that he was initially reluctant to do so.

In a separate article for the British Stammering Association, he wrote, “The thought of going into a school and talking in front of a class of cheering kids about fire safety became much more daunting to me than running into a house that was engulfed in flames.

“That all changed when a friend recommended The Starfish Project and my employers very kindly agreed to fund my attendance on one of their courses. It changed my life for the better. I now lead school talks and get great enjoyment and fulfilment from volunteering to speak to groups, sending radio messages to our control centre and answering the phone in the fire station.”

Mr Bradley said he now feels empowered and able to do something confidently that once kept him up at night.

“My stammer has awarded me with ‘bounceback-ability’, a high level of empathy and a drive to help others,” he added.

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