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Carmel Devaney

Interviewed by Luke Reid / photos by Emma O’Brien

Luke: How long have you lived in the area?
Carmel: I have lived here for 54 years.

Luke: What’s a fond memory you have of living here?
Carmel: A fond memory I have is of the Corpus Christi procession, when crowds in different areas of town gathered for an annual Rosary and recent communicants would walk by in their new outfits.

Luke: Have you seen this community come back from hard times before?
Carmel: During the 80’s Athlone had a major drug problem, but the local community and professionals helped to clear up the problem.There also has been major flooding on the banks of the Shannon, and in my area particularly. Farmers lost hundreds of acres to water during the winter months, and this caused a lot of financial hardship. But thankfully there is flood defence systems being erected around the town. particularly in Burgess Park, Deer Park and the Clonown road area.

Luke: What are some things that have helped you through lockdown and what brings you joy?
Carmel: A lot of things helped me through lockdown, the foremost of these to my mind is the daily online mass. I feel that this helped myself and the local community. An Post’s ‘Brighten up January’ campaign, in which they distributed two free post cards to all of the Republic, helped me keep in touch with friends. Online zoom calls with my grandchildren and family all around the world brought me joy, which I feel made the distance between us less.

Luke: What does community mean to you? What sort of things are you doing now to stay connected to your community and family?
Carmel: Community means so much to me and even more since living through this pandemic. I have experienced many acts of kindess such as the daily newspaper being delivered to my doors and weekly shopping being done for me. I am continuing to stay in contact with family and friends through online videocalling and also through letter writing. Online is something I would have never done before lockdown.

Luke: What message do you want to share for yourself and this community in 10 years time?
Carmel: I would love to see an airport being built for Athlone because it would connect us so much more with the rest of the country and world, and it would be great for the local community. I would also love to see a concert hall being built for the town because there is so much local and national talent and a concert hall in the centre of Ireland would be very convenient and great for the local people and economy.

Luke’s experience on the project: “I really enjoyed it because I got an older person’s perspective of life and in particular how they got through lockdown.”

Pictured below is Luke’s creative response to his interview with Carmel – a wood carving of her name. Also show are images from Carmel’s shoot with photographer Emma O’Brien.

Carmel Devaney

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