Sunday 23 April 2017

Woman who gave archive worth €10m to the State is left 'destitute'

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

THE woman who donated a major historical archive to the State valued at more than €10.5m is "virtually destitute" and has received nothing from the deal, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The family of Anne Clarke, widow of collector Jackie Clarke, from Ballina, Co Mayo, are irate that their mother has been left without a single cent from the deal to hand over the collection to Mayo County Council.

The material, which was acquired over half a century by Ballina businessman Jackie Clarke, spans nearly 400 years of Irish history and contains items historians didn't even know existed.

The collection contains rare books and manuscripts and includes one of 20 surviving copies of the original 1916 Proclamation. Before he passed away in 2000, Jackie Clarke requested that his collection be made available to the people of Ireland.

Since then controversy has arisen over the handling of the collection, with several members of the Clarke family demanding the return of the collection in legal correspondence unless their mother is properly compensated.

Under normal circumstances, those who make such gifts to the State are entitled to tax credits to the value of the gift. However, the Sunday Independent has learned this has not happened yet.

"Mayo County Council procured substantially all of the assets without any benefit enuring or accruing to her, and she has been effectively unprovided for," the letter said.

Her son John Clarke told the Sunday Independent yesterday that his mother, who has not been well for many years, was never offered or given adequate financial advice before the collection was handed over.

"She is not well, and she doesn't have any money. She is virtually destitute. She has been given nothing from this. All we are looking for is what is due to her," he said.

One of her sons, councillor Peter Clarke, is the only one to receive any benefit from the collection transfer. He is being paid €30,000 by the council to act as an "adviser" to the collection.

"Peter Clarke is employed as an adviser in relation to the collection. Under the agreement, he receives a consultancy fee of €30,000 per year," the council said.

Mayo County Council accepted the Clarke collection as a gift from Mrs Clarke in 2005. Since then the council has bought a building to house the collection but this will not be open until next year.

Peter Clarke said he would not comment on the matter and said he would let the council speak for him.

Other members of the Clarke family said the unhappiness of the brothers only began when they realised the collection was so valuable.

A spokesman for the council said: "The transfer proceeded in 2005 under an initial agreement and was confirmed by a final agreement in 2007. The collection was valued at €10.5m for insurance purposes. Mayo County Council paid no financial compensation to Mrs Clarke.

"Mayo County Council does not give tax breaks to anybody and any tax breaks or concessions are a matter for Mrs Anne Clarke and the Revenue Commissioner."

The oldest manuscript in the stunning collection dates from 1617, while two handwritten letters from Wolfe Tone are dated from 1798.

There are many unique items relating to the 1916 Rising. They include a letter requesting a priest give Padraig Pearse the last rites before his execution by the English in May 1916, correspondence used by the British military forces as evidence in Eamonn Ceannt's court martial, and books from Joseph Mary Plunkett's own library -- including what appears to be a previously unpublished poem in Plunkett's own handwriting.

The collection also includes an autograph book with the signatures of all the members of the first Dail.

The boxes in the collection are filled with thousands of handbills and leaflets covering all eras of republican history, including a 1910 notice from New York featuring a very rare picture of a young James Connolly. In 1993, seven years before his death, Jackie Clarke acquired a copy of the 1916 Proclamation.

"It was his pride and joy. He called it the 'holy grail'," his widow recalled previously.

Sunday Independent

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