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Pearse surrender letter must be saved by state – Tóibín

7 December, 2016

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD, has said that it is not too late for Minister Heather Humphreys to intervene to save the Pearse surrender letter, which will be put up for auction at 6pm today.

An Teachta Tóibín has said that Minister Humphreys should purchase the letter on behalf of the state immediately. Failing that, the Deputy said that all options to save the letter must be explored, highlighting that the Minister’s department are responsible for the issuing of a license for the export of documents of cultural importance, and that it is in their power to refuse the granting of such a license, if the letter is sold to an overseas bidder.  

Deputy Tóibín said:

“I cannot overstate the importance of this letter of surrender by Pádraig Mac Piarais at the end of Easter Week, 1916. However its value has been continually overlooked by establishment politicians in this state. The Fianna Fáil government refused to buy it in 2005, for the price of €50,000. Fine Gael are refusing to purchase it now.

“Admittedly, while the reserve price beginning at €1 million is high, this is a document that is worth keeping in the state for safekeeping and public display. It is within the Minister’s power to grant an export license for the document; it is also within her power to refuse such a license and keep the document in the country and under the protection of the state. However, this is a complicated process, and potentially more costly than the outright purchase of the letter.

“However, all options must be considered. There is a large sum of money, thought to be in the millions, leftover from the commemoration fund. It would seem fitting for this to be spent on Pearse’s surrender letter.

“Contrast the cost of the letter with the legal fees incurred by the government in their bid to allow for the demolition of Moore Street, which is said to be in the region of €2 million; or worse still, contrast the cost of the letter with the cost of appealing the subsequent High Court judgment protecting Moore Street, which will likely run into multiple millions.

“Minister Humphreys has failed utterly to uphold her ministerial duty to ‘conserve and manage Ireland’s unique heritage for the benefit of present and future generations’. If she doesn’t act now, the letter could end up overseas in private hands.  It is utterly shameful that a letter of such national significance, power and poignancy would be reduced to a mere collectors object.” 

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