National treasures under the hammer
National treasures under the hammer

Sinn Féin has condemned the sale of historical artefacts relating to the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence at an auction in Dublin.

A signed copy of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence was purchased for an unknown private collection for the sum of 360,000 Euros at the “third annual Independence auction” last week.

The mystery buyer purchased the rare proclamation, signed by the Irish rebel leader Sean McGarry, by bidding over the phone at the auction-house in Dublin.

The Proclamation was read outside the GPO at the start of the Easter Rising by Padraig Pearse on Easter Monday and was signed by McGarry.

Other items among approximately 650 lots of historical treasures included important letters, newspaper pages and cuttings, medals, documents and posters.

The historical treasures fetched a total of over two million Euros.

Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said significant national artefacts relating to this period of Irish history should be in the hands of the Irish people and the Dublin government should compulsorily purchase such items and keep them in the National History museum.

Members of Ogra Sinn Féin held a picket at the auction last week in protest at the selling off of Ireland’s history.

Deputy O Snodaigh said, “Over the last number of years James Adams Auctioneers have ‘celebrated’ Easter by selling to the highest bidder significant historical artefacts relating to the 1916 Rising and the Tan War period. This goes completely against the grain of what the men and women of this period stood for. All significant artefacts relating to this period of our history should be in the hands of the Irish people.

“Under current legislation the Government is able to compulsory purchase items such as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Broach and paintings of National significance. However the legislation under which this is allowed does not cover written documents or archives. This is the loophole which allows James Adams Auctioneers to sell our history each year.

“I am calling on the Government, in the context of their renewed enthusiasm for celebrating the 1916 Rising, to facilitate the closing of this loophole. Significant artefacts relating to this period of our history should be compulsory purchased and kept for the Irish people at the National History museum.”

Meanwhile, a secret RUC ledger containing lists of IRA suspects and other subversive organisations from the 1920s to 1940s was withheld from the same auction.

The ledgers comprise five volumes of police diaries and were discovered in the disused home of a former officer in Kircubbin, County Down. However, the British government intervened to prevent the sale, claiming ownership of the ledgers as official state records.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News