15 February 2001 Edition

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St Patrick's auction raises £28,000


Last weekend's fundraising events in aid of the St Patrick's Day Carnival raised thousands of pounds and far exceeded the expectations of the organisers. ``It was brilliant, a real boost,'' organiser Irene Sherry told An Phoblacht.

The Historical and Cultural Auction on Saturday night netted £28,000. That so much money was raised, and the breadth of support for the parade, will be a puck in the eye to those unionists on Belfast City Council who have consistently refused funding to the carnival.

The auction was conducted by Andy Moore , a brother of the fanmous Christy Moore, who contributed a manuscript of the song The Time has Come, penned in memory of Bobby Sands.

An original painting of IRA Volunteer Mairead Farrell by West Belfast artist Frank Quigley went for £2,450, while the guitar used by Bik McFarlane when he wrote Song for Marcella, a tribute to his close friend Bobby Sands, also broke the £2,000 ceiling and went for £2,100. A pipe belonging to the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams sold for £1,250.

Among the other items of political and historical value that went under the hammer were a full copy of An Phoblacht from the Hunger Strike year, 1981 and an original copy of Eoin MacNeill's Irish Volunteer from 1915. Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds donated his copy of the Downing Street Declaration, signed by himself and British Prime Minister John Major in 1993, which sold for £900.

Stars of the sporting world also contributed, including snooker ace Jimmy White, who donated a cue and the Armagh football team, who handed over a signed O'Neill's jersey. Former Antrim hurling great Ger Rogan contributed a hand carved model of an O'Neill's football.

Other contributors included English human rights barrister Michael Mansfield, Noobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, lawyer and former Civil Rights activist Michael Farrell, singer Frances Black, RTE commentator Mícheál Ó Muireheartaigh, artists Robert Ballagh and Jim Fitzpatrick, playwright Brian Friel, Irish ambassador to Washington Sean Ó hUiginn, Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brún, Bertie Ahern, John Hume and even David Trimble.

The auction was preceded by a sponsored abseiling event at Belfast's Europa Hotel. Around 150 daredevils, led by the irrepressible Gerry Kelly, and including yours truly, braved the 180-foot drop despite the wet and windy weather. Over £5,500 was raised by the abseilers.

Although pictured smiling as he went over the edge, Kelly confidedto An Phoblacht: ``I couldn't face my breakfast this morning as I was worried it would end up in the middle of Great Victoria Street. But I'd rather face the drop this morning than be in David Trimble's shoes.'' He was, of course, referring to the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Party executive around the corner in Glengall Street, where once again Trimble was taking on that colossus of the `No' camp, Jeffrey Donaldson.

An Phoblacht
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