The Athenaeum Restoration Fund was established in November 2008, to raise money to restore the famed building, which had remained closed and neglected since 2004. What started as a voluntary committee was registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee, run by a Board of Directors, and has charitable status.
In the beginning…In July 2008 it was reported in The Echo newspaper that the parish of St. Aidan’s was considering selling the Athenaeum because it was a financial burden that the parish was no longer able to bear. A subsequent column by Dan Walsh in The Echo, hot on the heels of the star-studded opening of the €33 million Opera House in Wexford, called upon the people of Enniscorthy to be inspired by the reincarnation of the Theatre Royal. The following week there were a number of letters to the editor of The Echo from people who were passionate about the saving of the Athenaeum for the people of Enniscorthy. It was becoming clear that natives of the town would not stand by and let it be transferred to the private sector. It was built and paid for by the ordinary men and women of Enniscorthy in the late nineteenth century, and it was going to be the ordinary men and women of Enniscorthy in the early twenty-first century who were going to save it.
Fr. Denis Kelly Adm. called a public meeting. On November 5th in the Assembly Hall, in St. Aidan’s Primary School on Nunnery Road, to discuss the future of the old Town Hall. The Church was no longer able to meet the costs of maintaining the building, so drastic action was called for.
The school hall was packed to capacity. The local Re-enactment Group, dressed in Óglaigh na hÉireann uniforms and carrying the tricolour, presented a banner, saying that the Athenaeum was “Enniscorthy’s GPO” and must be saved. Many people spoke up on the night and as the meeting proceeded, it became clear that the fate of the Athenaeum was not sealed. There was plenty of will, so there had to be a way.
A group of people stayed behind after the meeting and decided to meet up again the following week to form a committee. And so it came to pass that in the Legion of Mary Rooms on Nunnery Road on the 12th of November 2008, a committee was formed with the sole purpose of raising funds to secure the future of the Athenaeum in Enniscorthy as a civic facility for the people of Enniscorthy well into the twenty-first century and beyond.
The current Directors of Enniscorthy Athenaeum Limited, the name for the Restoration Fund since September 2010, are Tony McClean; Maura Flannery; Josie Flood; Maria Nolan; Paddy Byrne; Ursula Clarke Everett; Helen Ashdown, Greta Browne, Annette Byrne and Ann C. Ashdown.