Local faces: Aidan Thomas
By Mary Dennehy
LIVING in Tallaght for the past 55 years, Aidan Thomas has dedicated decades to voicing his concerns and challenging decisions made in relation to how his home town is being planned and developed.
Born in Inchicore, Aidan (85) told The Echo how, on reflection, he probably always had a leaning towards social justice, and the connection between social justice and building sustainable communities.
Aidan Thomas has spent decades voicing concerns about his home town. (Photos by Aidan O’Neill)
However, he believes he wouldn’t have the understanding of social justice he now has if he didn’t live in Tallaght.
“I went to the Oblate school in Inchicore, and then Westland Row CBS,” Aidan told The Echo this week.
“Inchicore was a massive learning curve in my life, for which I am eternally grateful.
“St Joseph’s Boys Club was set up by the local conference of the St Vincent De Paul.
“My friend ‘Moro’ and I lied about our age to become members.
“It was a place I met great friends, many now deceased.”
A young Aidan lived in Inchicore until he was 16, when his family moved to Walkinstown.
“I was getting closer to Tallaght all of the time,” Aidan joked.
“My wife Pauline and I moved to Tallaght in 1965, the year after our marriage.
“I was 30 years old.
“Tallaght at the time was the envy of many.
Aidan hopes volunteers will continue to speak out for Tallaght’s needs
“There was a great community spirit, and the Dominicans were the heart and soul of Tallaght.
“The Prior, the late Fr Paul Hynes and Fr Pat Lucey (St Aengusa) established the Tallaght Welfare Society (Trustus).
“The first Director was community activist Charlie O’Toole.
“He was way before his time.
“He set up an information office, a day-care centre for the elderly, and presented pre-budget submissions.
“Sadly, Charlie died in the late seventies.”
Alongside his involvement in the Tallaght Welfare Society, which is still active under the name of Trustus, Aidan also volunteered with SVP and spent 35 years on the board of Partas – all while working in the busy accounts department of multi-national Siemens.
“[Partas] was set up by the late Senator Maurice O’Connell and the late Willie Carroll of Dublin County Council [which was the local authority in the area before the establishment of South Dublin County Council in 1994],” he said.
“Both great visionaries.
“Partas assisted hundreds in setting up businesses in their Enterprise Centres.”
When a 30-year-old Aidan came to live in Bancroft, development was kicking off in the Tallaght area.
Raising a young family in the area, Aidan was well aware of the need for development – housing, infrastructure and community services.
However, he believed, and still does today, that new developments and communities should be delivered in a way that supports those living in them.
“I believe everyone should be able to live in an environment that gives them potential and opportunity in life,” Aidan said.
“I probably wouldn’t have the understanding I have of social justice if I didn’t live in Tallaght.”
Over the years, Aidan has challenged many of the planning decisions of Dublin County Council and, since 1994, South Dublin County Council, expressing his views both vocally through community forums and in his prolific letter writing to The Echo.
“I am passionate about Tallaght – that is why I am what I am,” Aidan said.
“When it comes to planning I suggest the planners listen to the community. It is my opinion that they never did – it was a policy of ‘Ah sure it’s only Tallaght’. I believe a lot of community volunteers were totally ignored and side-line”
Despite taking a step back from community work in recent years, Aidan still has Tallaght’s past, present and future on his mind.
He is hopeful that new generations of community volunteers will continue to challenge and speak out for the development of “sustainable and supportive” communities across Tallaght, communities that not only provide homes but support the overall wellbeing of those who live there.
Aidan took a step back from community work in recent years to help care for his wife Pauline in their Bancroft home.
However, Pauline, who has Alzheimer’s, moved into the Kiltipper Woods Nursing Home three weeks’ ago, a difficult transition, at a difficult time.
Looking back over the past 55 years in Tallaght, and raising their four children – Mary, Brendan, Michael and David – Aidan remembers very happy times.
“We have very happy memories in our home,” Aidan said. “We’ve really enjoyed Tallaght and have a great resource of neighbours.
“Pauline is a great wife, a great mother and a great neighbour . . . she’s a great community person. I joined community organisations, whereas Pauline was always involved in more silent community work . . . helping people out in the background.
“To Pauline, her family always came first . . . and over the years we all really enjoyed living in Tallaght and enjoyed its great community interaction.”
Over the years, Aidan’s work has been recognised by the community, and he has received the Father Paul Hynes medal for commitment to Tallaght Welfare Society/Trustus, the Lifetime Achievement Award at Tallaght Person of the Year, and the National Community Volunteer of the Year Award at the LAMA Community and Council Awards.
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