By Joe Barrett
A landmark Laois pub that has been a popular meeting place for decades has become home to Ukrainian families.
A welcoming event is being organised for the young families that have just moved into Pedigree Corner, on the outskirts of Ballylinan.
The ballroom/dancehall area of the pub/restaurant has been restructured and has the potential to accommodate 90 people. Currently, about 60 refugees are living in the premises and a further 30 are expected to move in shortly.
A number of local agencies such as Laois Partnership, Laois County Council and Laois/Offaly Education and Training Board are organising services, courses and places for children in local schools. It is understood that the National Transport Authority has been contacted to erect a bus stop outside the premises, so that buses can be accommodated to provide the refugees with transport for shopping, medical needs, religious services and schooling.
Welcoming the housing of refugees at Pedigree Corner, local councillor Pádraig Fleming said: “I understand that there are about 60 people, families with young children, in there already, with approximately another 30 to come.
“The system in place at the moment seems to be working well between the local agencies and the refugees.”
The families arrived with very little to their names and would appreciate donations of adult, teenager and young children’s clothing as well as some toys for the little ones. Donations of the much-needed items can be dropped off at the Pedigree Corner premises.
As an initial step in welcoming the families to the locality, volunteers are needed to assist in teaching them conversational English. For further information, phone Mary on 087 9863133.
It is also hoped that, when the families have settled in, a welcome celebration will be organised by the local community in the coming weeks.
According to Laois County Council, the latest number of displaced Ukrainian refugees in the county stood at 896, about 300 of whom are accommodated in hotels, guesthouses and in hostels, with the remainder in privately sourced or pledged accommodation. The construction of 42 modular homes is underway in Rathdowney to house some of the refugees, who are expected to move in later this year.