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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Irish history goes to highest bidder
Easter Rising
Scene from film footage of 1916 Easter Rising
Rare film footage of the 1916 Easter Rising and other historic Irish events has been sold for IR£95,000 at an auction in Dublin.

The auctioneers have not yet released details of the new owner.

The archive was compiled by a private collector whose heir decided to sell the material.

The newsreel, which was taken by a freelance cameraman, captures the violent battle between republican rebels and the British Army in the centre of Dublin that left nearly 500 people dead.

It also records the damage done to the city during the abortive rebellion.

The film went under the hammer at Dublin's Whyte's auctioneers on Saturday along with largely unseen footage from several other key events during the bloody struggle for Irish independence and the civil war that followed the establishment of the Irish Free State.

These include the aftermath of the first Bloody Sunday in 1920, when the pro-British militia known as the Black and Tans opened fire at a Gaelic football match in Croke Park.

They killed 11 fans and the captain of the Tipperary team in revenge for the IRA's murder of 14 British spies.

The IRA's capture of Dublin's Customs House in 1921 and the burning of towns and villages in the conflict are also featured.

Collins in life and death

Some of the footage is of the 1922 Irish elections, including film of Michael Collins, who became a legend in his own time as the leader of a deadly campaign of infiltration and assassination against the British.

He then led the pro-Treaty forces in the Irish Civil War.

Footage shows the siege and shelling of Dublin's Four Courts, which were held by forces fiercely opposed to the Treaty with the 1921 British Government, dividing Ireland.

Collins is also pictured alongside colleague Arthur Griffith at a wedding, shortly before the two men died in August 1922.

Arthur Griffith died of an illness a week before Collins' assassination by anti-treaty forces when he had all but won the civil war.

There is also footage of Collins' funeral.

A second set of newsreels, which have all been provided by a private collector, shows the first east-west transatlantic flight from Baldonnel, County Dublin, to Greenly Island, Canada, in 1928 in which Irish Air Corps Colonel James Fitzmaurice took part.

Call to government to buy footage

The film has an estimated value of between IR£25,000 and IR£30,000.

Fears that the newsreels could go to an overseas buyer led to calls for the Irish government to buy the footage.

Brian O'Shea, heritage spokesman for the Republic's Labour party, said the film should be put in the Irish Film Archive.

"It would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the government were this material to be lost to the public," he said.

Copyright issues

"These newsreels are priceless historic documents which will help us understand the early development of the state and they would greatly enrich our national archives."

Liam Wylie, head of collections at the IFA, said that although it had the only purpose-built premises in the country for storing film, the archive would not be bidding because it could not afford them.

However, the auctioneers have also admitted that the copyright surrounding some of the footage is a "grey area" and issues of broadcast rights for television would have to be addressed by any buyer.

"Some of the footage was sold to news agencies, but much of it was unwanted and so has never been seen by the public," a Whyte's spokesman said.

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22 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
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