Pearse surrender letter could be sold abroad
A Dublin fine art firm is to apply for an export licence for the last surrender letter written by Patrick Pearse, after State cultural institutions declined to acquire it before it goes for public auction.
The hand-written letter dated April 29, 1916 was dispatched to a group of rebels in the Four Courts in Dublin. The document, which will be auctioned in December by James Adam, has a pre-sale estimate of €1m-€1.5m and has already drawn international interest, particularly from the US.
It was last sold to a private collector for €700,000 by James Adam in 2005 after the National Library declined to buy it privately for €50,000 before the sale.
The brief letter, given by Pearse to Capuchin priest Fr Columba to deliver to the rebels, reads: "In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers... commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms".
The document will be sold at James Adam's Irish art and historical document sale on December 7 and is now on display in the GPO.
"It is absolutely essential that it should be held by an Irish cultural institution. It would be a terrible pity if it left the country," said leading historian Diarmaid Ferriter.
"It is the last official document from Pearse and, after everything we have experienced this year, this document belongs here."
The historian said he had "mixed feelings" about historical documents coming up for sale at public auction but understood that the Government did not have unlimited funds.
However, he added that too much historical material had already left the country. "The only hope we seem to have now is that a wealthy individual will buy this and donate it to the State."
James Adam managing director Stuart Cole said that when it was last sold 11 years ago the owner of the letter was prepared to sell to the National Library for €50,000, although it was "worth considerably more".
He added: "The most the National Library were prepared to pay was €10,000, so he told us 'if they can't be reasonable' to go ahead and sell it and it achieved €700,000." The under-bidder was a collector from abroad.
Mr Cole added: "The reality is that someone outside the country will buy it. I have already been asked will I get an export licence for it and I have asked the department, as they are not interested themselves."
If the letter achieves its estimate price it will be the most expensive document ever sold at an Irish auction.