Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness's matchstick prison art goes under hammer

By Ken Sweeney

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

The Deputy First Minister built the model of an Irish round tower in Portlaoise Prison in 1974 after he was convicted of IRA membership 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 Londonderry-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.

Father Jimmy Shiels' sister, Rosaleen Shiels, said: "My brother 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 Shiels treasured the round tower 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 €1,000-€1,500 (£860-£1290).

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 Gerry Adams and 65 other republican prisoners in the Maze in 1971, which has a guide price of €300-€500 (£260-£430).

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