Controversial sale of National 1798 Rebellion Centre in Enniscorthy scrapped by council
Plans to sell to a private developer provokes backlash among councillors
Each year, thousands of tourists visit Enniscorthy, Co Wexford to see Vinegar Hill and go to the 1798 Centre.
In an email sent to councillors on Thursday evening, the council said a Section 183 notice, which would allow for the sale to a private company will not now proceed.
The sale of the centre was due to come before councillors at their monthly meeting on Monday.
The council email read: “You are aware that we have been in discussions recently regarding the potential sale of the 1798 Centre.
“From discussions with members it is evident that such a proposal would not enjoy the required member support to proceed. It has therefore been decided to proceed no further with the discussions and a S183 notice will not be put before members in the matter.”
The centre was one of the flagship projects of the bi-centenary commemorations for the rebellion in 1998 and was financed with EU and local money.
It was intended to attract more than 100,000 visitors annually. However, at the meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council last week, council official Caroylne Godkin said the number of visitors to the centre”didn’t cover the cost of the electric”.
The members were told the prospective new owner plans to develop an exhibition centre based around the life of designer Eileen Grey at the site, in addition to a cafe.
It was planned for the 1798 exhibits to be rehoused in the castle.
A petition opposing the sale set up by local historian Colum O’Rourke, who maintains the 1798 rebellion casualty database, has attracted almost 6,000 signatures in a week.
Local Enniscorthy councillor Cathal Byrne said the original decision to sell the centre “came as a bolt out of the blue” and he welcomed the change of heart.
“The proposal contained no plans for what would happen to the existing exhibits, many of whom had been donated by local Enniscorthy people in the belief that they were to be put on permanent display,” he said.
“The proposal was met with shock by the entire Enniscorthy community. I have been inundated with constituents dismaying their shock at the proposal.
“The sale of the 1798 Rebellion Centre would have represented a hammer blow to the town at the worst possible time. Each year, thousands of tourists visit Enniscorthy to see Vinegar Hill and go to the 1798 Centre. The knock-on effect on jobs in the town of Enniscorthy of a closure of the 1798 Centre would have been huge.”
Cllr Byrne has now called on Wexford County Council to put together a comprehensive plan and investment package for the future of the 1798 Centre.