Two years ago, with the support of Kerry Parents’ and Friends’ Association, which cares for people who have intellectual disability, he moved into a house in Listowel, with three other men.
“I am happy where I am. I have good friends here. I love the place,” he says. “I have my own TV, my own space and my own livelihood. And I have a lot of independence.”
He travels to the Care Resource Centre in the town every morning, arriving by bus between 9am and 9.30am. “I like coming in and meeting the staff — they are lovely,” he says.
He is always busy. There is work in the centre’s garden “doing a little planting and getting ready to sell plants at the farmers’ market” and “cleaning up the place” for an upcoming open day.
Woodwork is one of his favourite activities. “For my project, I made a map of the world. I framed it and all. I used a map, glass and wood. At the moment, it’s in the kitchen of the house I’m living in.”
One morning a week, Joe works at the local coffee shop, The Flying Saucer, in Supervalu. “I go down at 11 o’clock, every Wednesday, and come back to the centre around 12.30pm. I am a waiter. I work in the kitchen and I clean the tables off. I love it.”
Other days, he studies geography, literacy and woodwork. There are also aerobic, dancing and cookery classes — he is proud of his lasagne.
Hobbies include hurling, soccer, swimming and walking in the local park. “I like going to Ballybunion, as well, to walk on the beach.”
In 2008, he flew with his woodwork teacher, Michael McElligott, to Stamford Bridge, in England, to watch his team, Chelsea, play. “It was a great trip. Chelsea won. They were playing Fulham and won by two goals to one,” he says.
Now aged 42 and having lived for ten years in the centre, he says he is “very settled”. And though he enjoys his independence, family remains important.
One of six children, his mum died about two years ago and his dad is a retired farmer. “I go out to see the family in Lixnaw, any chance I get,” he says, adding that he spoke to his sister on the mobile phone the night before.
nKerry Parents’ and Friends’ Association is one of nine charities to benefit from this year’s Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, on July 5.