Nothing small about Laois community's big restoration achievement

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly

Generations of Emo people gathered last week to celebrate the new chapter of a building which has that has served the community for more than a century.

Built in 1889, the school house was the building where thousands of children received their primary school education.
This ended a century later in 2009 when a new school building opened. However, the community did not allow the building go to waste.

Last week marked the second phase of a renovation of the building which is now an invaluable resource for all.
Laois TD and Government Minster Charlie Flanagan was on hand to cut the red ribbon on a new extension which came about out of necessity and has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The closure of the old rectory playschool and opening of a replacement in the schoolhouse left a need for an extension to accommodate all other local groups for their weekly activities.

The move kick-started the launch of a new project spearheaded by Cllr Tom Mulhall, Chairman and Julia Booth, Secretary of the Old Schoolhouse Restoration Committee.

The key to realising the project was a grant in October 2017 of €80,000 under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
Bridging finance from Portarlington Credit Union allowed the committee to push ahead with their plan which was realised with the official opening on Thursday, September 27.

Speaking on the night Cllr Tom Mulhall extended thanks to all who had helped in the latest phase of the restoration. He paid a special tribute to Julia Booth for her tireless work on the project.

“If you want someone to do a job get a busy person.” he said.

Laois County Council Chief Executive John Mulholland said he was honoured and privileged to be associated with what he said was a hugely sucessful project.

“It is a fine example of commuity work at its best,” he said.

Cllr John King, Laois County Council Cathaoirleach congratulated all on the achievement.

Ms Booth paid tribute to all who helped and singled out the builder for the finished product.

“The work is excellent. You wouldn't know where it started and finished,” she said.

Minister Flanagan paid tribute to the committee, in particular the secretary and chairman.

“It is a prime example of money well spent in terms of rural development,” he said.

His constituency colleague, Sean Fleming TD, recalled visiting the schoolhouse at a time when it was “an unsafe” building.

He said the building is now in its third century of use and has the potential to be in use for a fourth.

“You are making history here tonight because this building will be here not just for yourselves but for the next generation,” he said.

Fr Tom Dooley's blessing of the building was followed by impromptu songs from Cllr King and local man Noel Davis.

Apart from being used as a creche, the building is also used by Emo's Active Retired and Youth Club among others.

Cllr Mulhall and Ms Booth thanked all who contributed to the project including the following: Julia Booth; Alex and Karen Mihajlovic of Emo House Developments; engineers Luke Hyland and Conor Delaney; Michael McEvoy CEO of Portarlington Credit Union; Michael McGrath, architect; John Mulholland and Michael Rainey of Laois County Council; Minister Charlie Flanagan; CE scheme personel PJ Hearty and Michael Ryan; Wilfred & Ingrid Deverell; Collette Rigney; Cyril Duggan; Gabriel Lalor; Fr Tom Dooley.

Photographs from the opening night were taken by Michael Scully.