12 April 2006

Historian maintains doubts on tricolour

Daily Ireland

Auctioneers fail to place estimate on 1916 Rising flag

by Connla Young

A historian who cast doubt on the authenticity of a tricolour supposedly flown over the General Post Office (GPO) during the 1916 rising was involved in a fresh row last night.
In yesterday’s Daily Ireland, noted historian Pádraig Ó Snodaigh raised doubt over claims that a tricolour set to be auctioned off today in Dublin today flew from the GPO during the Easter Rising.
The flag, along with hundreds of other artefacts from the 1916 period, will go under the hammer in Dublin.
Auctioneers James Adam and Sons and Mealey’s say the flag was removed from the GPO in 1916 by a British army officer and later given to a Co Antrim loyalist before being presented to the family of a founder of Sinn Féin.
Mr Ó Snodaigh who is Ireland’s leading vexillogist (flag historian) and who edited the seminal book on the subject, A History of Irish Flags from earliest times, hit back at claims by auctioneers that his opinions are a matter of “personal conjecture”.
“I finished and edited that book, the definitive word on the entire subject of Irish flags,” said the Howth-based writer.
Daily Ireland has also learned that the National Museum is unlikely to bid on the controversial flag at today’s auction, despite claims by auctioneers that it flew from the GPO during the rising.
“A representative from the museum had an opportunity to examine the flag but there are grave doubts over its provenance. In vexillogist slang, it’s a virgin flag – it’s never been up a pole,” a source said.
Auctioneers have failed to place an estimate on the disputed flag ahead of today’s sell-off.
Mr Ó Snodaigh says three questionmarks hang over the authenticity of the flag.
“The flag is green, white and yellow rather than orange. At 74 x 159cm it isn’t big enough to have flown, as claimed, over the GPO. A second flag flown on the day, a green standard with the words Irish Republic emblazoned across it, was obtained by the National Museum in 1960. The captured flag was pictured after the Rising being held upside down by British squaddies.
“A torn piece of a tricolour believed to have been the flag flown from the GPO and the pole used to support it are in the possession of the National Museum. If those items are genuine then this flag isn’t since it has no portion torn from it.
A spokeswoman for the auctioneers defended the authenticity of flag last night. “Nobody can say if it is or isn’t but certainly the provenance is very clear. In terms of where it came from, this is an extremely fine family with a long association with Ireland’s struggle for independence. They are very well-respected and the flag can be dated to that time,” she said.

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