Such is the level of interest in the potential sale of the National 1798 Rebellion Centre in Enniscorthy that an online petition to ‘save’ the centre from being sold had received 3,990 signatures as this newspaper went to press.
The petition was started by Colum O’Rourke and has been promoted heavily on social media.
When contacted about the matter by this newspaper Sinn Fein TD, Johnny Mythen, said any sale of the centre should not take place until a permanent location for the 1798 exhibition was found.
‘Personally, I would prefer that the centre remains where it is,’ said Deputy Mythen.
‘That’s my preferable option,’ he added.
He also highlighted the fact the sale will be dependent on the majority of councillors on Wexford County Council voting in favour of such it.
‘It’s one of the few statutory powers they still have and it has to be agreed by a majority of members,’ he said.
He expressed concern that if the centre closes it won’t be reopened somewhere else.
‘We all know what happens when something closes down,’ he said.
‘It’s moth-balled and there should be a place for it to be rehoused before it’s moved,’ he added.
‘I would have grave concerns it will never appear again.’
Deputy Mythen said it’s a case of kicking the can down the road and commented: ‘It has to have a physical place to go to if anything should happen but preferably I would like to see the ‘98 centre remaining where it is, especially with the amount of money that was put into it.’
Deputy Mythen also feels that the level of promotion that was put into other sites in the county including Enniscorthy Castle was never put into the centre.
‘It was never given the same scale of funding support in terms of promotion,’ he said.
‘There is huge potential to build the tourism product around it including the links with Antrim and even on the unionist side because the United Irishmen formed in Antrim and the Presbyterians at the time were as oppressed as the Catholics and there is a strong connection there,’ he added.
‘They were oppressed as well at the time.’
Such is Deputy Mythen’s interest in the matter that he wrote to Wexford County Council asking members to consider the proposal regarding the upcoming sale of the centre.
In his letter Deputy Mythen pointed out that the centre is the only one of its type in Europe said ‘‘98 is embedded in every parish in County Wexford and is historically connected to France, America, Europe and practically every county in Ireland’.
He said thousands of Euro has been spent on signage inviting tourists and citizens to visit the centre and that with Vinegar Hill receiving an average of 30,000 visitors each year ‘surely there is a way to link both entities’.
Cllr Jackser Owens also told this newspaper that he would be very much against the sale of the centre.
‘The exhibition has to have a place for people to see it and I would be very much against the sale,’ he said.
Deputy James Browne also said the centre should remain open and in a statement called for it to remain open unless an alternative and equivalent exhibition space in Enniscorthy is located.
‘The decision to close the 1798 Centre needs to be postponed,’ said Deputy Browne.
‘It appears the decision has been rushed with little consultation with County Councillors and the public,’ he added.
Deputy Browne commented on Enniscorthy’s ‘rich history’ and its many ties to the 1798 rebellion.
Last weekend marked the 222nd anniversary of the Battle of Vinegar Hill and with that in mind Deputy Browne said the centre needs to remain open unless an alternative location is found.
He also suggested that a possible site in Templeshannon should be considered commenting: ‘That’s an area that I think has been neglected a lot in the past.’