Should the State buy Pádraig Pearse's €1m 1916 surrender letter?

The artifact is going up for sale - but the Government is passing on the lot...

Should the State buy Pádraig Pearse's €1m 1916 surrender letter?

Niall Carson PA Archive / PA Images

Pádraig Pearse's note calling for the final surrender of rebel forces during the Easter Rising is going to be sold next Wednesday.

The document is currently on display at the GPO's Witness History Exhibition - it will be sold by James Adams Fine Art and is expected to fetch between €1m and €1.5m.

Mr Pearse's hand written order is dated April 30th 1916 and brought an end to the uprising.

It reads: 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. PH Pearse, Dublin, 30th April 1916.

The message is believed to have been intended to reach a pocket of nationalists at the Four Courts who were still fighting.

The official republican surrender is owned by the Imperial War Museum in London - it is typed and signed by Mr Pearse.

In 2005 the document was offered to the National Library for €50,000 but it was only willing to pay €10,000.

The letter went on to fetch €800,000 at auction - it was bought by an anonymous individual.

Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD, Diarmaid Ferriter, said the letter is of "immense historical significance" - it was the last official letter written by the leader of the insurrection.

James Adams Fine Art reports that the letter has already attracted interest from buyers outside of Ireland.

A spokesperson for Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys confirmed that the State will not be considering a last minute bid.

Heather Humphreys at the Centenary Commemoration of the Funeral of O'Donovan Rossa at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin / PA

"A senior official from the Department of Arts met with a representative of Adams Auctioneers in mid-October to discuss the Pearse letter. The Department was informed the letter had a guide price of €1m to €1.5m. The Department consulted with the relevant national cultural institutions and it was agreed that the amount being sought for this one letter would not be the best use of taxpayers' money, especially in light of the fact that our cultural institutions hold a number of other letters written by Pearse during and after the Rising," the Department told Newstalk.

It highlights similar artifacts that are in the State's possession - including a surrender order signed by Pearse, with countersignatures by James Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh which carries an almost identical message to the letter which is set to be sold next week.

jimfitzpatrick.com

Not everyone is happy with this decision - Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams wrote to Minister Humphreys pleading with her and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to reconsider their decision.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on heritage, Peadar Tóibín said, "While the cost of acquiring the letter could cost upwards of €1 million, there is no doubt that it should be in the hands of one of our cultural institutions for safeguarding and display."

"Yet again, we are privy to the warped priorities of a Minister who purportedly serves to support and enrich our heritage, yet time and time again acts against the interests of preserving the honour and legacy of the founding fathers of our state," the Meath West TD continued.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith also wrote to the department, calling on the State to buy the surrender notice.