Thursday, 10 May 2012
Go raibh maith agat. I tabled this Adjournment matter because the county archivist in Clare has done enormous work in collaborating and putting together a series of archives that have significant historical value that should be open to public. We also have a situation in north Clare where the only workhouse that dates back to the Famine that still stands and is available is an OPW storage facility in the Corofin area. That facility is not being used for historical purposes. Cataloguing has taken place over the past number of years of the archival information. A well-grounded suggestion has been made that both should be married. The archives should be stored in the Corofin workhouse and made available to the public, thus ensuring that the archives are readily accessible to people. It would also act as an interesting tourist attraction in north Clare. Visitors to that part of the Clare tend to search for information about their relatives. There is a tracing service in Corofin that has been used by thousands of Americans and people in Australia and other countries seeking to trace their relatives here. People can contact the service and their family tree will be drawn up for a small fee. I propose that we give a much greater offering to that type of tourist in that part of Clare by the OPW providing the old workhouse to be used as an archival museum to gather and showcase the archives of County Clare. I hope that the Minister of State will give me some good news from the Minister responsible for this area.
The Senator has drawn attention to his area. He is willing to fight for it and he made a lot of sensible suggestions.
With regard to his comments on tracing roots, I welcome Mr. Robert Babcock from Boston, a distant cousin, who is in the visitors' Gallery. He has traced his family back to my county and that is why he is present today. A tracing service is fantastic and I know that we have embarked on a large campaign to encourage many Irish Americans to come back here. I have read the Minister's reply and if the Senator believes in the project then he should not take "No" from it. The two bodies working together is the answer.
The following is the Minister's reply. The Office of Public Works runs a depot in Corofin, County Clare, from which it organises the maintenance of national monuments in the Burren area. The depot is located at the premises of the former Corofin Union Workhouse. The building was formerly vested in Clare County Council under the State Lands Workhouses Act 1962 and is now vested in the Mid-Western Health Board under the provisions of the Health Act 1970.
In 1988 the Mid-Western Health Board agreed to lease the property to the OPW and to allow it to be used as a depot. It is primarily used for the storage of transport equipment. The OPW has been in communication with the archivist for Clare County Council in connection with her plans to locate an archive in the building and advised that it is willing to relinquish its lease on the former workhouse. However, alternative suitable accommodation would be required by the OPW and the council has been requested to assist in this regard.
The OPW is willing to share accommodation with Clare County Council at any of its premises within a reasonable distance from Corofin. On provision of a suitable alternative premises the former workhouse can be vacated within a short timeframe. The OPW has examined its existing property portfolio and has been unable to identify a suitable alternative. My office is open to further discussions with the council to examine all avenues with regard to the Senator's proposal for the protected structure.