Protest at auction as Pearse surrender letter withdrawn

Bidding stops at €770,000 and owner to request export licence

Patrick Pearse’s surrender letter has attracted significant attention including calls for its retention within the State. Photograph: The Irish Times

Patrick Pearse’s surrender letter has attracted significant attention including calls for its retention within the State. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

A surrender letter written by Patrick Pearse in Easter Week 1916 looks set to leave Ireland after being withdrawn from auction in Dublin when bidding stopped at €770,000 on Wednesday night.

The letter, which was written by Pearse in his prison cell on April 30th, 1916, shortly after his surrender to Brig Gen William Lowe, had a guide of between €1 million and €1.5 million.

Its unidentified owner is to request an export licence for it after its withdrawal at an Adam’s auction.

In a statement, Adam’s director Stuart Cole said: “On this occasion, the reserve was not met. The owner, based overseas, has requested that Adam’s apply for an export licence tomorrow to formally notify the Government that the document will be leaving Ireland and for the process to be expedited.

“The owner was saddened that the Government refused to bid for the document but now feels relieved of his obligations to keep the document in Ireland.”

Adam’s had previously said it had taken some trouble to attempt to sell the letter to the State without success.

Significant attention

In the build-up to the auction, the document attracted significant attention, including calls for it to be kept in Ireland.

As the lot number was called at auction, Sinn Féin councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha stood up to protest at the sale.

“This is a disgrace. This is one of the most important documents in Irish history and here we are today in the centenary of the 1916 Rising and it’s on open sale to the highest bidder,” he said, before being escorted from the room. Earlier, about 15 people took part in a protest outside the auction and there was a small Garda presence.

There were 11 bids starting at €520,000 before the document was withdrawn after less than three minutes.

Ahead of the auction, Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin, said the letter “emphatically does not belong in an auction room”.

On Tuesday, addressing similar concerns raised by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government had no intention of purchasing the document.

In the letter Pearse wrote: “In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the provisional government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P H Pearse, Dublin, 30th April, 1916.”

Two other surrender letters written by Pearse and dispatched to other garrisons in Dublin are held in the National Museum of Ireland.