By Dan Walsh
At the June meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council it was revealed that sale had been negotiated with a local businessman, and all remaining exhibits would be totally removed from the National 1798 Rebellion Centre at Enniscorthy, subject to the deal being passed by a full meeting of Wexford County Council.
It is understood that the decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the historical significance of the place, but the Centre has been a total failure as an economic entity, and the Council is no longer prepared to carry the losses. “Visitor numbers have been disappointing for a long time,” a Council official told WexfordLocal.com
It is understood that the new owner plans to develop an exhibition centre and a café.
Cllr Cathal Byrne suggested that the sale should be dependent on guarantees that the existing exhibition be suitably relocated and continue to be exhibited. “I could not support the sale without reassurances about where the exhibition is going,” he concluded.
Cllr John O’Rourke raised concerns about the 1798 artefacts. “The people of Wexford gave donations and they are all catalogued below in Johnstown Castle,” he added.
Cllr O’Rourke also recalled that people had raised finances countywide and beyond to have their names up on the wall in the 1798 Centre – an obvious reference to the Senate which convened in Johnstown Castle during the 1998 bicentenary commemorations.
Cllr Jackser Owens suggested moving location to “the bottom of Vinegar Hill” and Cathaoirlech Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan said “people from other countries really loved it.”
There is local disquiet about the decision. Several petitions have appeared on social media- some sources saying that 4,000 signatures have been recorded to date – and Deputy James Browne has called for the National 1798 Centre to remain open unless an alternative equivalent exhibition space in Enniscorthy is located.
“The decision to close the 1798 Centre needs to be postponed. It appears the decision has been rushed with little consultation with county councillors and the public,”
“The 1798 centre needs to remain open unless an alternative equivalent exhibition space can be found. One possibility is to find a location for a new centre in the Templeshannon area, which has been neglected in the past”, Deputy Browne concluded.
Posting on social media this week, Johnny Mythen TD, said “Once again we see the National 1798 Centre, facing closure. Once more our history is thrown to the ‘disregard bin’. In 2018, Deputy Mythen, then a councillor, was one of the few who voted against the sale of the Rebellion Centre at meetings of both Enniscorthy Municipal District Council and Wexford County Council. It must be acknowledged that public opposition was very low-key at the time!
At a meeting in April 2018 Wexford County Council received a mandate from members for the sale of the National 1798 Rebellion Centre at Enniscorthy to a local businessman for the limited purpose of operations as a distillery and visitor centre.
It was agreed that the purpose built centre, established on a green field site adjacent to the old CBS monastery in 1998, would continue in its present form throughout the summer months and a number of events were scheduled to take place there marking the 220th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion.
A meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council agreed the sale of the property measuring 0.63 hectares for €325,000, and the proposed deal passed to the County Council members for full approval.
A clause in the sale agreement emphasised that the Council will have first refusal to purchase the property at the original sale price if the purchaser decides to sell within the first five years.