28 Nov 2021

Call to make Laois famine workhouse an IT training hub

Call to make Laois famine workhouse an IT training hub

Donaghmore famine workhouse museum in Laois.

A new purpose has been requested for a former famine workhouse in Laois, to once again support local communities but in a modern way.

Donaghmore Workhouse in south Laois is one of only three still intact in Ireland, now an educational visitor attraction run by a local volunteer group.

However an extra use has been suggested, to compliment new free high speed broadband that has been installed at the workhouse.

Cllr John King wants it to also become a technology training centre, for local small business owners including farmers. 

He tabled a motion at the October meeting of Laois County Council, which for the first time was held at Donaghmore workhouse, in its dining hall restored using Government grants.

“We are all here in Donaghmore today and the best part of €100,000 was invested in it. It’s near the motorway and there are 55 or 60 businesses in the Rathdowney area who have asked me if they can avail of this property.

“I met Dermot Bannon here to showcase it some weeks ago. The fact that we own this place with parking and toilets, I am asking the chief executive to develop this,” he said.

The Cathaoirleach Cllr Conor Bergin seconded the motion.

“On one hand it is a solemn occasion to have our meeting here, remembering the suffering and hardship of people who died here. But this is also a modern facility managed by local people, owned by Laois County Council and offering high speed broadband,” he said.

In response, Laois County Council said that future plans need to be developed to explore increased space in Donaghmore, and that as it is a protected structure, any intervention will require expertise and a source of funding.  

Donaghmore is one of five signal blackspot rural locations in Laois to be made a free high speed broadband hub to support communities under the Town & Village Renewal Scheme. Users can pull up in carparks and log in, with money secured for furniture and IT equipment inside the hubs once Covid-19 restrictions end. The others are Vicarstown, Oisin House in Rossmore, Emo NS and Shanganamore.

The hubs are in place until National Broadband Ireland can fulfill its remit to bring broadband to the door of every single rural premises in Ireland, which it expects to do by 2027. 

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