The Poor Law was extended to Ireland by an Act of 1838, based on the English Poor Law Act of 1834 and operated until 1923. The country was divided into poor law unions, each of which built a workhouse. Every union was administered by a board of poor law guardians, and ex-officio guardians. Ex-officio guardians were elected yearly at meetings of local magistrates and were composed mainly of Justices of the Peace. These were the first representative local bodies in Ireland, elected by owners and occupiers of property. Tenants were entitled however to deduct half their rates from their rent. These were placed under the centralised control of the Poor Law Commissioners. The system was funded by cess payers, assessed originally on District Electoral Divisions according to the numbers of paupers. The Poor Law Guardians were responsible for the provision of relief to the poor but gathered other functions over time. In 1846, they became responsible for providing and equipping hospitals and dispensaries for the sick poor; in 1856 operated as the burial board for the rural parts of the union and from 1963 were responsible for the registration of births and deaths. Notably relating to public health, the boarding out of children and rural housing. Between 1874 and 1899 they were the rural sanitary authority employing dispensary medical officers to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
County Clare was originally divided into the four unions of Ennis, Kilrush, Ennistymon and Scariff. In 1850 on the recommendation of the Boundary Commissioners four new unions were created in County Clare: Tulla, Ballyvaughan, Kildysart and Corofin.
Corofin Union was created in 1850 and a workhouse was built there in 1852 with accommodation for 600 people. It consisted of the electoral divisions of Ballyeighter, Boston, Corofin, Glenroe, Killinaboy, Kiltoraght, Muckanagh, Rath and Ruan.