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The workhouses of County Offaly

Steve Dolan
Heritage Publication

Following independence it was announced that the workhouses in Offaly, and those nationally, would be closed. But what were these institutions which had peppered the countryside for more than half a century? What was their purpose and who were kept in them? This project seeks to answer those questions. The workhouse system in Ireland was developed under the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838. The country was initially divided into 130 unions, with a further 33 added during the ‘famine years’ in those regions worst-afflicted. County Offaly was divided into three main areas or unions, namely Parsonstown/Birr, Edenderry, and Tullamore. Each union was managed by a Board of Guardians which was required to maintain a workhouse where paupers could be housed and fed. The story thereafter will be shared though an online lecture [free] and booklet [€5] launch. All proceeds will go to St Vincent de Paul who contributed much to the community during the Covid-19 emergency.

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