Reenactment forced to move to racecourse after shock closure of Duncannon Fort
DUNCANNON is to lose out on a major festival each year following the shock closure of Duncannon Fort.
A Wexford County Council spokesperson said serious health and safety concerns prompted the decision to close the fort, which was made on Tuesday. Duncannon Military Re-enactment festival co-ordinator Joe O'Toole said the festival, which attracts thousands of visitors to the area each summer, was due to take place on the final weekend of the month, will be permanently moved to Wexford town.
The 2015 event is now moving to Wexford Racecourse at Bettyville. He said he was busy planning this year's festival when he received word on Tuesday that the fort - which forms the event's epicentre - was closing.
Mr O'Toole said thousands of euros have been invested in this year's festival between large signs advertising the events and ferry and accommodation expenses.
'After 11 years we only got four days notice to have everything out of the fort. People had made travel arrangements to come over from Germany and the UK. Ferries and B&B's were booked and food was organised for the groups in the form of ice cream vendors, hot dog vendors etc.'
Mr O'Toole has been travelling to Duncannon from his Cork home on weekends and during holidays, along with several other war history enthusiasts, to work on the trench warfare and war history museum at the fort - all at their own expense.
'We put two years of work into the trenches and the war experience and we didn't get a penny for it. We did it for the fort because of the long standing relationship we have with it. We were after gearing the fort up for the 1916 centenary commemoration next year and we'd poured our hearts into that working through nights and on our weekends. We got it built when nobody else would and the whole thing has just been pulled from under us.'
Describing the museum as unique in the country, Mr O'Toole said the re-enactment group will never return to Duncannon for their festival. 'We suffered the cost of that once and we won't again.'
Duncannon Fort Manager Marian Coady said the fort was starting to come into its own with a new Avoca style cafe when news came through that it had to close. The closure will affect 14 tenants, including the Cockleshell Gallery and 12 people on CE schemes. It remains unknown how long the fort will remain closed.
Anthony Bailey, Housing Officer with Wexford County Council, said there are serious electrical issues at the fort which is run by Duncannon Fort Trust Ltd.
Mr Bailey said: 'It could have led to serious health and safety issues. Significant funding is needed and works are due to begin this summer. We'll be looking at how to strategically place the fort as a tourism operation. It will close for a time and it will effectively be a building site.'
Meanwhile, in a double blow to Duncannon, signs are being erected at Duncannon Beach next month to alert people that the water is designated as poor quality for bathing, but Wexford County Council says it plans to maintain a lifeguard presence as the water is expected to be safe for swimming in.
The popular beach was one of seven nationally which were designated as poor by the Environmental Protection Agency Bathing Water Quality Report last week.