A former secondary school once attended by the late Éamon de Valera has been officially re-opened as a social housing development following major public investment and refurbishment.

Centenary House in the centre of Charleville, Co Cork, was repurposed following a long period of dereliction to become a nine-unit apartment development under the aegis of Cork County Council and the Peter McVerry Trust.

It was opened today by the Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who said that it is an example of the kind of developments happening throughout the country which are needed to rejuvenate town centres and provide more social housing.

The building stood as a CBS secondary school in the north Cork town from 1866 and was attended by former Taoiseach and President Eamon de Valera between 1896 and 1898, when the teenage schoolboy walked seven miles every day to attend from his home in Bruree, Co Limerick.

The school closed in 1972 and although it was used by various community groups for some years, it fell into disrepair and lay unused in recent years.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin in Centenary House

Peter McVerry Trust secured the project with the support of Cork County Council under the Department for Housing's Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) and the first tenants have already moved into their new homes.

Centenary House will soon be fully-occupied, comprising seven one-bed apartments as well as a three-bed and a two-bed apartment for families, along with communal garden facilities.

The new homes range from 44m sq to 90m sq.

A bedroom in the new social housing development

Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said they were delighted to be delivering "this important project" for Charleville alongside Cork County Council and under the Government’s Housing for All plan.

"The nine homes that the Tánaiste has officially opened today are very much in keeping with our expertise as a housing provider; that is the redevelopment of derelict buildings as social housing," Mr Doyle said.

"This building is particularly special given its historic landmark status in the heart of the town.

"All Peter McVerry Trust tenants who will make this their new home will receive ongoing supports from our local Housing with Supports team and will come from the local authority housing list."

A kitchen in the new apartments at Centenary House

Mr Martin described the building as "an iconic secondary school" and said the re-development was "an illustration of the kind of developments that are happening all over the country now in terms of social housing provision, through approved housing bodies such as the Peter McVerry Trust"

He said such projects also help "the renewal of town centres like Charleville" which is also benefitting from a €6 million investment to develop a new community and arts centre.

"What we are witnessing now in very real time is the rejuvenation of town centres and with the Croí Cónaithe Town fund as well, there’s even further opportunities for derelict buildings to be rejuvenated and refurbished for housing, social and affordable housing, and I think that’s the way forward in terms of the housing issue."