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16 March 2006 Edition

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1916 auction: TD calls for government action

the last letters of executed signatories of the Proclamation, Seán Mac Diarmada

the last letters of executed signatories of the Proclamation, Seán Mac Diarmada

Scandalous auction of 1916 heritage

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described as "scandalous" the planned auction of priceless historical documents and other artefacts associated with the 1916 Rising and the Irish independence struggle, in a sale planned by two auction houses in the week of the 90th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

The auction firms, Adam's and Mealy's 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.

In a press release, the auction houses involved, James Adam & Sons and Mealy's announce that they are joining forces to host the "sale of the century".

They further boast that they will offer for sale "previously unseen documents of the utmost historical importance charting Ireland's struggle for independence." The statement goes on: "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."

Slamming the development and calling for government action Aengus 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."

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