Joe Connolly

(11/03/1922 - 17/10/2008)

Joe Connolly(1922-2008), was a renowned community activist, politician and a founder of the Community Games. He lived much of his life in 39 Hughes Road South, Walkinstown and was a instrumental in setting up the Walkinstown social and athletic federation. Joe was born 11 March 1922 at 5 Tolka Avenue, Dublin, son of John Connolly, an engine driver, and his wife Esther (née McNally). Connolly grew up in Lusk, Co. Dublin, before settling in the East Wall area. His early experiences in boxing laid the foundation for his dedication to community engagement and activism.
In 1965, Connolly moved to Walkinstown and quickly recognised the lack of recreational facilities for the area’s youth. As chairperson of the Walkinstown Sports and Athletic Federation, he spearheaded efforts to address this issue by establishing a community hall at the cost of £8,000 and organising activities such as day trips and holidays to the north Co. Dublin coast. This commitment to fostering community participation and activism paved the way for his involvement in founding the Dublin Community Games in 1968.
Inspired by the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Connolly, alongside Fr. Martin Tierney and others, initiated the Community Games as a platform for promoting grassroots sports and community involvement. It was the the biggest juvenile sports event held in Ireland. The inaugural finals held in Santry Stadium marked the beginning of a movement that would soon spread across Dublin and eventually throughout Ireland. Despite challenges, including a dispute between local organisations, Connolly’s leadership ensured the growth and success of the games.
Under Connolly’s guidance, the Community Games evolved into a nationwide organisation, with the first National Finals taking place in 1971. The games, often referred to as the “mini-Olympics,” garnered significant attention and support, signalling their importance in Irish youth development. Connolly’s vision emphasised inclusivity and community participation, reflected in the diverse range of events offered, including athletics, arts, and cultural activities. The games started of with a few hundred participants, catered for more 500,000 juveniles during it’s lifetime.
Despite limited government funding, Connolly remained committed to promoting healthy recreation and community engagement. His efforts led to the sponsorship of the games by the Health Service Executive and the dedication of thousands of volunteers.
In addition to his community work, Connolly pursued a political career, serving as a Labour Party member on Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council. His advocacy extended to issues such as housing, healthcare, and drug rehabilitation, reflecting his commitment to social justice and public service.
In 1983 he was named as one of the People of the Year, and in 1988 during Dublin’s Millennium year he was among a group of local activists to receive special awards from the city’s lord mayor, alderman Carmencita Hederman.
He worked and promoted people with disabilities and was the chairperson of what is now WALK, which empowers people with disabilities to live self-determined lives in an equal and inclusive society
He died after a long illness at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, on 17 October 2008, and was buried in Bohernabreena cemetery, Co. Dublin. A memorial bench was placed in Tymon park in his memory in 2017.
Connolly’s legacy as a champion for youth empowerment and community involvement lives on through the continued success of the Community Games.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Community activist and politician who represented Crumlin.