Carrick-on-Suir call to have gold coin hoard displayed in the town first

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council has written to the National Museum and Arts, Heritage & Culture Minister Jimmy Deenihan requesting that Ormond Castle host the first exhibition of the Cooney’s Pub gold coin hoard in South Tipperary.

The letters have been sent in the past week after the Council’s elected members unanimously passed a motion calling on the local authority to secure a commitment from the National Museum to allow the 17th century coins to be displayed at Carrick-on-Suir’s historic castle and that replicas of the coins be permanently housed there.

Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, the mover of the motion, called for Ormonde Castle to be the first place to exhibit the coins outside Dublin rather than South Tipperary Museum in Clonmel.

The Fianna Fail councillor felt so strongly about the issue that she declared at one point during the debate that she would be prepared to sponsor a set of replicas of the coins to ensure they were displayed in Ormond Castle.

She said she was extremely disappointed to read in ‘The Nationalist’ that the County Museum seemed to be the place people were advocating to display the coins when they visited the county. The coins should be displayed first in the town they were found, she argued. After all the Rock of Cashel was in Cashel and the High Crosses of Ahenny were located in Ahenny.

Cllr Cooney-Sheehan pointed out that the town has been trying to promote Ormond Castle and this coin hoard was a fantastic opportunity to do this.

“It would be absolutely marvellous if the first viewing of the coins outside Dublin was in the Castle. The Office of Public Works should come on board with us. It would be very good to see the castle getting such high priority and certainly replicas would have to be housed there.

She said the whole idea was to generate extra tourism business and money for the town’s economy.

“I won’t be happy with anything other than Carrick-on-Suir and Ormond Castle being the place for these coins. It’s very important that we capitalise on this in Carrick-on-Suir”.

Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin supported the motion and was critical of The Late Late Show’s coverage of the coin collection’s discovery.

He complained that Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum Eamonn (Ned) Kelly was barely able to remember the name of Carrick-on-Suir when asked on the show where the coins were found. And he said the people who found the coins and Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir should have been invited on the show and also invited to the first public viewing of the coins at the National Museum.

“We were treated like some place in the outback,” he told the Council meeting.

“It’s not good enough. We are trying to support our town and we should have at least half a dozen of the coins on public display in Ormond Castle.”

He called on the Council to express its anger at the way the town has been treated in this matter.

But Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald said he was in favour of the coins being displayed in Ormond Castle and that replicas be provided. He advised that the Council should first find out the policy on exhibiting national treasures like the coins in venues outside the National Museum before pursuing the matter.

“It we are going to do this we should do it in a proper fashion. We should see what they are looking for and if we can comply with the conditions.” He suggested the Council should seek to get the coins displayed at the Castle for a period of weeks in line with the National Museum’s policy. He believed the policy used to be 10 to 12 weeks.

He was a member of the County Museum Committee and attended a meeting the previous week at which the coins were discussed. There were issues concerning security even at the County Museum. The National Museum had standards and guidelines that had to be complied with. He pointed out that even for the coins to go on display in Ormond Castle would cost several thousand euros. He believed a set of replicas would cost between €4,000 and €5,000.

In relation to Cllr O’Loughlin’s criticism of Eamonn Kelly’s performance on The Late Late Show, he suggested the Keeper of Irish Antiquities may have just been nervous and pointed instead to the huge media coverage the coins find received. “It was a good positive story and there is people now phoning Carrick Heritage Centre asking can they come and see them (the coins).”

But Cllr O’Loughlin didn’t soften his stance. “Once again we have allowed our tourism business to be stolen. The Davin boat on display in Clonmel should really be in Carrick-on-Suir. It’s all being stored and stashed elsewhere,” he complained.

In relation to Cllr Fitzgerald’s comments, Cllr Cooney-Sheehan said if the Council didn’t put down the marker now that it wanted the coins to be displayed in Carrick-on-Suir they would end up in the County Museum. The letter to the Minster and National Museum should be sent as soon as possible and let them inform the Council how much it will cost.

She didn’t want to hear a word about how much bringing the coins to Carrick-on-Suir would cost. It should just be done and cost should not stand in their way.

“We will come up with the money. We have got to get a commitment that the first viewing of those coins in South Tipperary just has to be Carrick-on-Suir. If we lose that moment in time, if they got into the County Museum in Clonmel we will never get them.

“I will even sponsor the bloody replicas myself if it means we get it. I will seriously put my money where my mouth is. That is how passionately I feel about them”.

She warned that if Carrick-on-Suir didn’t capitalise on this it would lose the best tourism attraction the town ever had.

Fine Gael Cllr Margaret Croke, meanwhile, proposed that replicas of the coins should go on public display in the pub where they were found but Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Liam Walsh responded it would be a matter for the owner of Cooney’s Pub to purchase a set of replicas and put them on display if he wished while Cllr Cooney-Sheehan said you couldn’t expect children and parents to go view the replicas in a pub.

Cllr Fitzgerald concluded the debate by saying let the letters be sent but he would also pursue the matter through his own channels.