Govt urged to recover 1916 tricolour

Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff has called on the Dublin government to purchase an Irish tricolour that was captured from the GPO, the headquarters of the Easter Rising in 1916. The attempted auctioning of this item went ahead but it did not receive the reserve price last week at an auction in New York.

“The attempted sale of this magnificent artefact, the flag that was captured from the GPO at Easter 1916, and any other significant historical artefacts relating to this period of Irish history should not be allowed to occur. They should really be in the hands of the Irish people,” said Mr McElduff.

It the last full-sized tricolour flag of the 1916 Rising still in existence.

The 94-year-old linen flag -- the first symbol of an independent Republic of Ireland -- is thought to have flown from the top of the rebel headquarters in the GPO in Dublin before it was captured by British forces.

Sergeant Thomas Davis, who served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, stashed the flag during a clear-up of the city after the Easter Rising.

After capturing the flag, Sgt Davis kept it safe before giving it to Dr George St George in thanks for treating his injuries.

A note from Sgt Davis, which is also being auctioned with the flag, reads: “Captured by British Troops at GPO Dublin, April 1916, and given to Dr George St George by an old war veteran, Sgt Davis.”

The flag passed through a number of owners before ending up with a prominent Dublin family who put it up for sale in Bloomsbury Auctions in New York on March 23.

The flag, which measures 75cm high and 160cm wide, was expected to fetch between 363,000 euro and 509,000 euro when it goes under the hammer. However, it was withdrawn after failing to reach its reserve price.

“In previous years there have been sales of such artefacts in a number of auction houses and unfortunately, despite these being throughout the boom years of the Irish economy, the Irish government failed to have the foresight to capture these pieces of our history and return them to the people of this island,” said Mr McElduff.

“There is an onus on the Irish Government to direct compulsory purchases of such items and keep them in the National History museum. To sell of ones own heritage to hang on a private collectors wall is tantamount to the theft of this heritage.

“With this flag not reaching the reserve price there now exists a unique opportunity for the Irish government to act now. I would urge them to initiate contacts with the auction house with the aim of returning this flag to its rightful home.”

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