Enniscorthy was the final garrison in Ireland to surrender in 1916. Today, the Athenaeum theatre and town hall, where the Volunteers made their brave stand, will once again return to a central position in Enniscorthy, following its re-opening on Friday, 23 September. The Athenaeum theatre is one of the nine capital projects developed as Permanent Reminders under the 1916 Centenary Programme.
The Athenaeum was pronounced open by Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe, at a ceremony that saw the building at its full glory for the first time since it closed in 2004.
Speaking at the event, the Minister said: “The Athenaeum was the Enniscorthy command post in The Rising and it was fitting that it chosen as one of the Ireland 2016 ‘permanent reminders’. It has been beautifully restored to its former glory and will be a wonderful resource for locals and tourists keen to learn more about The Rising; and it will be an excellent facility for the arts in County Wexford.”
It was on Tuesday 27 April, 1916, three days after the Dublin battalions took the GPO and started the Rising in Dublin that the Wexford Volunteers rose and made Enniscorthy’s Atheraeum theatre their headquarters. The “Enniscorthy GPO” as it was dubbed, was chosen because of its protected position in the centre of town.
Wexford was one of only three counties in Ireland to disregard Eoin Mac Neill’s countermand. And it wasn’t until 1 May that the Volunteers were forced to surrender.
Beyond its role in the Rising, the Athenaeum has always held a special place in the hearts of the people of Enniscorthy. Stories about the dances in the ballroom (theatre auditorium) in the 1950s and 60s are legendary. It was the beginning of many a romance in the local community, and there are still those in the town who remember the fun and the stories that accompanied their nights at the venue.
The reopening of the Athenaeum is a positive step in revitalising the community and remembering the role played there by the Wexford volunteers in 1916.
Minister of State Paul Kehoe said: “Ireland 2016 – the State’s Centenary Programme to remember 1916 has engaged the entire nation. We have remembered 1916, reflected on our Republic 100 years on, and are now re-imagining our future.”