Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Wexford County Council will offload Enniscorthy's National 1798 Rebellion Centre, leaving the exhibition with no permanent home.
The Enniscorthy Guardian has reported the projected sale of the heritage centre, subject to a majority decision by Wexford County Council. The centre tells the story of the uprising against British rule which was organised by the United Irishmen, a revolutionary group influenced by the ideals of the French and American revolutions. A Christian Brothers school was converted specially for the Rebellion Centre, and €2 million in donations, fundraising and grants was used to fund its development and exhibition space.
Acting Director of Services, Carolyne Godkin told the Enniscorthy Guardian that the centre was doing poorly in terms of footfall and that "There is a national 1798 centre in Boolavogue as well so it’s not unique". However, the 1798 Rebellion Casualty Database on Facebook has pointed out that "It is rarely advertised. The poor levels of tourism to the centre in recent years is the fault of those with no progressive energy... The centre, as I’ve mentioned before, was commissioned by the people and for the people in 1998, as a lasting memorial to the 1798 Rebellion. To see it cast off as irrelevant shows that Wexford heritage is truly dispensable."
In a review of the Centre's exhibitions in 1998, the rebellion's centenary year, Elizabeth Crooke (now Professor of Museum and Heritage Studies at Ulster University) praised the "ingenious" display technique, including the re-enactment on film of The Great Debate between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, which is projected onto panels of the authors' texts.
The poignancy of war is made all the more apparent in the film which informs the visitor that County Wexford experienced eleven of the twenty-three battles and, in a four week period, lost 20,000 people from its population of 120,000. By comparison, the visitor is told, the first six years of the French Revolution cost the lives of 25,000 people from a population of thirty million.
More about the 1798 rebellion:
Enniscorthy Guardian on attempts to sell the centre in 2018.