Belfast Telegraph

No export licence for Patrick Pearse's surrender letter

The owner of P atrick Pearse's handwritten surrender letter has been blocked from taking it out of the country.

The note, which marked the end of the 1916 Rising, failed to sell at auction earlier in the month with the Government insisting the guide price of between 1 and 1.5 million euro (£840,000 - £1.25 million) was too dear for it to make an offer.

The surrender letter was signed into the Register of Cultural Objects by Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys last Friday and a request to take it out of the country was made on Monday.

After effectively blocking an export licence, Ms Humphreys raised the prospect of the owner availing themselves of a massive tax break if it is donated to the state.

"I remain of the view that the guide price on this letter is too high," she said.

The minister said she took the decision to put it on the register because of the letter's heritage value and it now means an export licence cannot be granted for a year.

"This will provide some space and time, when other potential buyers may come forward and I think it is the right thing to do in this case," Ms Humphreys said.

"It is worth repeating that should an individual wish to donate this letter to the state, they could claim 80% of its value back in tax relief under the very generous Section 1003 scheme. As set out in the legislation, it is not open to me to refuse to grant the export licence, but by delaying it for a year, I am providing an opportunity to allow other options to keep the letter in the country to emerge."

The letter was th e final instruction from Pearse to soldiers in the Four Courts in Dublin.

Pearse wrote the surrender letter in his prison cell on April 30 1916 shortly after he had given up the fight.

He was executed three days later.

Auctioneers regarded it as one of the most historically significant artefacts from the rebellion years to have been offered publicly.

At an auction held by James Adam's in Dublin earlier in the month the letter was withdrawn from sale after falling short of the guide when bidding stopped at 770,000 euro (£650,000).

There had been a number of calls for the Government to buy it including from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin, said the letter did not belong in an auction and that the sale debases Irish heritage on the 100th anniversary of the rebellion.

The seller has not been named and was described by the auctioneers as non-Irish and living outside the country.

They paid 800,000 euro (£670,000) for it at auction in 2005 despite a guide price as low as 50-70,000 euro (£42,000 - £59,000).


From Belfast Telegraph