the Presentation Sisters are set to demolish most of the old classrooms and facilities of the vacant Scoil Críost Rí.
Laois County Council gave the green light for the demolition of five standalone buildings comprising the three storey classroom block, the two storey home economics/arts building, the single storey canteen, a single storey canteen prefab building and a single storey shed.
The convent in Portlaoise was established in 1824 in the old infirmary. The community extended the building in 1872 and the tower element was subsumed into the extension. The convent was built in 1886, and this was also a school. It housed the presentation community in Portlaoise until 2000 when the last sisters moved out.
The Presentation Sisters Provincialate have operated as a secondary school from 1968 until last year, when the school relocated to a new purpose built site on the Borris Road. This week the staff, sisters and students celebrated the official opening of the new school.
In 2000, a report on behalf of the Department of Education stated that the buildings “were in an extremely poor condition to the extent of being dangerous in use.”
The report said that at the time that serious consideration should be given to the replacement of the buildings as soon as possible.
According to Denis Doherty, who compiled an Architectural Heritage Impact Assessment for Watts Consultancy on behalf of the Presentation Provincialate, the buildings are a target of anti-social behaviour.
“The buildings are vulnerable to unauthorised access even with the current security measures in place,” the report said.
“The location is prone to unwanted attention especially at the weekends. The Presentation Provincialate is concnerned about the risk of injury to third parties as a result of any unauthorised access.”
Two Portlaoise councillors raised concerns about knocking the building.
Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said it was regrettable that the buildings were to be knocked.
“The Presentation Convent looks derelict and neglected and I would not like to see the same thing happen to the grounds of the Presentation College,” she said.
While, Cllr Willie Aird expressed concerns that there was no mention of future plans for the site in the application.
“The impact of a derelict site in the town centre could set a precedence for other buildings to be demolished without any future plans for such sites.”
Speaking about the councils decision to grant permission for the demolition, Cllr Aird said it was a pity to see the buildings go.
“It’s a pity to see them go. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
The permission to knock the old school buildings also comes with strict conditions to facilitiate the preservation, recording and protection of archaelogical materials or features that may exist on the site.
No construction work is permitted during the school year either. During the months from June to September, the operating hours of the site are to be 8am - 7pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays.
See page 41 for pictures and report on official opening of the new school.