Escape from the City – Summer 2001

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Fiona Kelly was delighted to move away from Dublin but as she tells Cait Curran, she is even more delighted that she and her family have settled in such a welcoming community as Athenry.

Athenry is fast becoming a dormitory suburb of Galway so it is refreshing to meet a new resident who works locally, is keenly interested in community development and has become involved in local activities.

Fiona Kelly and her husband Ken moved to Athenry with their two children in 2000.A native of south County Dublin, her happiest memories are of holidays spent at her uncle’s farm near Loughrea. Despite growing up in an urban environment she knew that she would one day come to live in the west of Ireland. “I hated living in Dublin” she says. “We lived near a very prosperous suburb but crime was rampant. Drugs were freely available and joy riding was a constant nightmare. My conscience would not let me raise my kids in that environment”.

Sojourn on Inish Mór 

The Kellys applied to Rural Resettlement but knew that the waiting list was long and in the meantime began doing some research of their own. During a trip to lnish Mór on an adult education outing Ken fell in love with the island. “There were forty-seven empty houses on the island and we decided there and then to move when we found a house to rent” Fiona says.”‘Neither of us could find jobs in Dublin but within days both of us were working on lnish Mór”.

Local welcome

Chronic back problems forced Fiona to have major surgery and her consultant advised her that she should move closer to Galway for treatment. The last thing the Kellys wanted was to end up back in a large housing estate and when the offer of a new house in Cuillairbaun came up they were delighted to accept. “l was greeted and welcomed to Athenry immediately”. Fiona recalls. ”Within a few days of arriving one young man who worked in a local shop emptied the boot of his car and carried me, two children and a load of shopping home. That is a kindness l will always remember”.

Occupying children

The Kellys have settled well in Athenry but Fiona shares the concerns of many local residents. Like all parents she worries about the environment in which her children will grow. “I would like to see more for kids to do”’ she says. “Young people are falling through the cracks. They will turn to drugs through boredom if there are no activities to keep them occupied. We have a lot of sporting facilities but we need a gym and a swimming pool. There is no proper playground for children in the town”.

Home help

Fiona loves her work as a home help and wishes that more people would consider the job. “Facilities for the disabled are very inadequate generally apart from the local schools and there is hidden poverty in many homes in the parish. Despite the so-called good times many people are living below the breadline” she says. Fiona is a great believer in becoming involved in her community. She is a member of the Board of Management of her daughter’s school and has set up a Writers Group in Athenry. The group is currently preparing its second book for publication and hopes to launch it shortly.

Uniformity

She would like to become involved in other local bodies such as the pastoral council but feels precluded because she is not Catholic. “Many activities are church based” she says. “We need to remember that not everyone in Athenry is Catholic”.

 Traffic danger

Bringing children to and from school proves to be a nightmare for her and many other parents. “Crossing the railway bridge on the Tuam Road is dicing with death in the mornings” she feels. “The concentration of school children around the Northgate at such a busy junction is a huge worry. Businesses should organise deliveries outside of school hours. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing a child while crossing the road. School traffic wardens are needed at busy times to keep children safe”. The huge growth in housing developments also concerns her. “lf we continue to build new houses we must have the services to cater for them. A commuter train link to Galway at a sensible time in the mornings and evenings is needed if we are serious about reducing traffic problems”.

Settled

Fiona sees herself staying in Athenry for the foreseeable future. “We like to have a moan about our problems but this town is a great place” she says. “lt has so much potential and there is so much more that can be done”.

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About this record

Written by Cáit Curran

Published here 14 Jul 2023 and originally published Summer 2002

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