Wednesday 13 December 2017

Auction to unlock value of McGuinness's prison tower

Martin McGuinness
Irish round tower made entirely from matchsticks by the North's Deputy First Minister

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

BUILDING it from matchsticks over many months took a level of patience which stood Martin McGuinness well during the interminable peace process negotiations.

The current Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland built the model of an Irish round tower in Portlaoise Prison in 1974 after he was convicted of being a member of the IRA by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

Now the rare piece of republican art goes under the hammer later this month.

The model was a present for the late Derry born priest Father Jimmy Shiels, whose family have now put the item up for sale at an auction in Whyte's Auctioneers later this month.

The auction will also feature a World War One recruitment poster issued by the Department of Recruiting for Ireland in 1915.

The poster portrays an Irish farmer ploughing a field, pausing to look at a ghostly vision of St Patrick who is gesturing to the ruins of Reims Cathedral.

"My brother Father Jimmy was a nationalist, not a republican, but he visited republican prisoners in Portlaoise and places to say Mass and hear their confession. Being from Derry he would have been a friend and neighbour of Martin's," Father Jimmy Shiels's sister, Rosaleen Shiels told the Irish Independent last night.

Father Shiels treasured the round tower for decades until his death in 2004.

But now, because of its fragility and historical significance, his sister believes the tower would be safer in the hands of a collector who will be expected to pay something in the region of the €1,000-€1,500 guide price.

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said there has already been "huge interest" in the item, and a similar piece, a handkerchief decorated with republican imagery and signed by Sinn Finn leader Gerry Adams and 65 other republican prisoners in Long Kesh, Co Down, in 1971, which has a guide price of €300-€500.

Irish Independent

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