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Government must stop auctioning of priceless 1916 heritage - Ó Snodaigh

10 March, 2006

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described as "scandalous" the planned auction of priceless historical documents and other artefacts associated with the 1916 Rising and the independence struggle in a sale planned by two auction houses in the week of the 90th anniversary of the Rising.

Two auction firms, Adam's and Mealy's (see attached copy of press release), plan to sell off some of the last letters of executed signatories of the Proclamation, Seán Mac Diarmada and Tom Clarke, manuscripts of Pádraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, a handwritten copy of the National Anthem by its author Peadar Ó Cearnaigh, a Tricolour believed to have flown from the GPO in 1916 and Michael Collins's typewriter, among other unique historical items.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "It is scandalous that these priceless historical documents and other irreplaceable parts of our national heritage are to be auctioned off to become the private prestige property of wealthy individuals. There is nothing to stop these items being taken out of the country. To add insult to injury the auction firms are promoting this sale by linking it to the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

"The Government should immediately intervene with emergency legislation to prevent this sell-out of our heritage. Successive governments have failed to put in place legislation to protect heritage items from market forces. If anything should spur long overdue action it should be this latest indignity. For any Government to allow these items to be auctioned in this way makes a mockery of our reputation for cherishing our history and culture, something that is touted around the world as one of the main reasons for people to visit Ireland.

"The State has the legal authority to declare an historical site a national monument. It also has the power to issue compulsory purchase orders on lands in certain circumstances. Similar powers should be put in place for historical items such as those about to be sold off." ENDS

Note to editor: Below is a copy of a press release from Adam's and Mealy's auction firms

Press Release

Adam's and Mealy's Announce Irish Sale of the Century

Ireland's leading auction houses, James Adam & Sons and Mealy's Auctioneers are joining forces to host what could be the most significant sale ever to be held in Ireland.

Comprising previously unseen documents of the utmost historical importance charting Ireland's struggle for independence, Adam's and Mealy's 'Independence Sale' will be the most comprehensive and significant auction of Irish history yet to take place.

Scheduled during Easter week (12th April) to coincide with the 90th anniversary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising, it includes a number of significant lots of historical, political and national value and most notably includes the original words and music to Ireland's National Anthem, estimated to fetch €800,000 -- €1.2million.

Handwritten by Peadar Kearney in 1907 on two pieces of paper, the Soldier's Song (Amhrán na Bhfiann) was popularised by Irish revolutionaries during the Easter Rising and formally adopted as Ireland's National Anthem in 1926.

Commenting on the significance of the Independence Sale, Stuart Cole, Director of James Adam & Sons, said,

"This sale is unique in every respect. No sale of such national importance has ever been held before, and we imagine it won't be matched for a long time after.

"Many of the items consigned for auction are one-offs. Previously unseen and entirely irreplaceable, they derive from important Irish families directly involved in the Easter Rising and the battle for Irish independence.

Fonsie Mealy, Director, Mealy's Auctioneers, Castlecomer, added,

"The Irish national anthem is a wonderful sale highlight and we are honoured to have been chosen to auction it. Of supreme national importance, it will naturally be of interest to many Irish collectors and we would hope to see it stay in the country. However, having already been offered to the State on different occasions, we are concerned that it could leave Ireland because of huge international interest."

"Although Mealy's and Adam's are both specialists in Irish history and militaria, it is difficult to place estimates on some of the lots, due to their uniqueness and the level of interest they may incur. A case in point is the recently sold handwritten letter by Padraig Pearse asking volunteers to surrender, which fetched ten times its estimate at Adam's, making €700,000 on the night," Fonsie Mealy concluded.

The National Anthem will be auctioned alongside items that together track the history of the Irish revolution - from the spark of 1798 right through to the British Government's telegram announcing the declaration of the Irish Free State.

Of the 400 lots catalogued for sale, other important items include:

Sean McDermott's poignant handwritten letter on the eve of his own execution addressed to John Daly, Mayor of Limerick who is Uncle to Edward Daly and Kathleen Clarke

An archive of papers from the 1880-1916 period, written by and relating to Thomas Clarke, the first signatory of the Proclamation, including his final letter, before execution, to his wife Kathleen Clarke

The first communication that Ireland was to become a free state - a telegram from the Duke of Devonshire, informing the Irish Secretary of State, WT Cosgrave that the King has just agreed to give Ireland independence

Tricolour believed to have flown over the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising

Irish revolutionary, Thomas Francis Meagher's last letter written before deportation to Tasmania

Collections of Padraig Pearse letters and poetry, including an autographed unpublished manuscript appealing for funds and explaining plans for St. Enda's -- also signed by Thomas McDonagh

Original architect's watercolour drawings showing the elevations of the GPO building

An original Proclamation dating to the 1916 Easter Rising

Michael Collins' typewriter and an essay he wrote on Ancient and Modern Warfare aged 14


Member Firm

James Adam & Sons Ltd. Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers since 1887.

26 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland. Tel: + 353 1 676 0261 Fax

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