New community centre rises from ashes of house where sons died
A community centre has been opened at the family home of three sons who lost their lives in a fire last year.
The McDonagh boys died tragically in a fire in their home in Louth last year and now, with their parents' wishes, the site has been converted into the new base of the Connect Centre.
James (8), Tony (16) and Martin (21) were killed by a fire in their family home in the Moneymore estate in Drogheda on March 16 last year and the remains of the building have served as a constant reminder of the tragedy.
Their parents, Anthony and Kathleen, who survived the blaze, have now ensured that the site can be used to serve the whole community.
Connect co-ordinator Janet Coogan said: "The idea was to bring a positive element to the house after the tragedy of what happened.
"The McDonaghs' choice was for a service like this to be provided.
"We are in the heart of the community now and we are hoping that more people than ever will be able to avail of our services."
Ms Coogan also said that they will ensure there is a special blessing ceremony to mark the moving occasion and intend to hold a big opening party.
"We haven't decided exactly what it will be, but we will have a day for the community."
The McDonaghs will be brought in before the grand opening where organisers will ask them for any suggestions they might have as to how they would like to commemorate their boys' memories.
In order to ensure that the community's needs are met, representatives from the Connect Centre are currently conducting door-to-door surveys to assess the needs of the community.
"We are hoping to do the analysis in September and then design a training programme from that which could be anything from parenting, growing your own vegetables to yoga or digital photography.
"We have about 150 survey back and we are hoping to get back about 250 in total to see what people want rather than us driving it," she added.
"Our main aim is to get more people to come in and use the service.
"We want it to be as accessible as possible to the whole community," she said.
Eight of the McDonagh children survived the tragic fire, including Eddie (13), who escaped the blaze by jumping through an upstairs window with his clothes alight.
The boys' deaths made national headlines and more than 1,500 attended their funeral Mass last year.