Local Faces: Imelda Hanratty
HAVING spent over forty years in Kilnamanagh and seeing An Cosán go from “The Shanty” to what it is today, Outreach Officer and U3A Volunteer and previous Tallaght West Person of the Year, Imelda Hanratty speaks to The Echo about the journey of An Cosán and why she believes Tallaght is the best place to live.
Growing up in Walkinstown, Imelda decided to move up the road to Kilnamanagh, Tallaght, in 1979 with her husband Ian.
“There wasn’t as many facilities back then, but there was great community spirit always in Kilnamanagh,” says Imelda. “There would have been street parties and summer projects and stuff like that, and I feel that that still stands today.”
When Imelda first moved to Tallaght, she worked in a carpet wholesaler for a few years before leaving to take care of her children. In 1993, she became involved with a group in Kilnamanagh called ‘Mná Le Chéile’, offering education courses in a local primary school.
“It was from that group that I went to what was called ‘The Shanty’ at the time. It was in Brittas and I went to do a community leadership course there,” Imelda explained.
“That led to me becoming more involved with ‘The Shanty’ and volunteering and eventually led on to me learning how to drive the minibus to the centre. In 1999 we moved to Jobstown, and they needed a new name for the centre and that is where I actually came up with the name – An Cosán, which is Irish for ‘The Path’.”
Speaking about the meaning behind the name choice, Imelda says that she believes that education is a journey that people go on and felt that ‘the path’ is something that you can step on and off at any stage.
“At An Cosán, we offer courses from access courses such as basic computer courses and literacy to higher education and degree level. We also offer early years services and childcare which is available to people who are attending our education services.
“We also offer counselling support and student support, so when people come here, they will get help with their assignments.”
One of Imelda’s roles at An Cosán is co-ordinator for the University of the Third Age (U3A) group, which promotes positive ageing.
“We meet fortnightly, and we get speakers in to give talks and we have gone on a couple of educational trips, but it is mainly about sharing skills with one another,” Imelda explained.
“We get good support from the South Dublin County Council social inclusion department, so we would take part in a lot of events that they run such as social inclusion week or health week.
“It is about promoting the local facilities – we have met up during lockdown in Sean Walsh Park socially distanced and I would promote anything that was happening in the area such as leisure facilities to people.”
Like so many businesses and individuals, the last eighteen months of the pandemic have been difficult for the staff and members of groups at An Cosán having to stay apart.
“Covid made things a lot more difficult. There are no information days, for outreach there would have always been the career fair in Tallaght but with Covid you couldn’t have that, so it is a little bit harder,” said Imelda.
“With the U3A group, a lot of them found it very hard as many of them were cocooning. They found that there were missing the link every week that we would usually have. I would text people every week and check in with them, and that connection held the group together.
“As a group, we used to light a candle every Thursday in our own houses as a symbol of keeping that connection with the group and for them to still feel part of something.”
Speaking about what advice she would give to someone interested in going back to education or doing a course for the very first time, Imelda says that the hardest part is making the first step.
“There is a little poem I read and it says, ‘go and open the door’,” she said. “Just step outside and see what is out there. It is a very welcoming place for people to come in and start a course for themselves.
“I would just say to people to give us a call or call in to check what we have to offer – there is always going to be someone here that will let them know what courses we have and guide them. One of the important things about An Cosán is that all of our courses are offered in a relaxed environment and a nice, welcoming space so that everyone feels comfortable.
“We always have a centre piece, which is maybe a plant and a candle that each class would start with what we call an ‘opening circle’. It is just to take a few moments for people to reflect – we light the candle and say a little affirmation and then they settle into their courses and take on their studies.
“It is the Ethos of An Cosán to have education through a relaxed environment for those returning to education or entering it for the first time, because it can be daunting.”
Speaking about her experience living in Tallaght for over forty years, Imelda says that she believes it has a lot to offer.
“There is so much if you go out and take the first step, there is a lot happening,” she said.
“I have stayed in Tallaght for 42 years and we think it is a good place to live. When you do sit down and think about all of the things that are in Tallaght, we are so lucky.
“With things such as the hospital and I see that there is a new cinema coming, you have got shopping, the theatre, bowling, sports, Rua Red – it is sometimes a matter of stepping back and looking at all of the facilities that are available and making use of them.”