Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Museum buys Carson uniforms

Carson uniform
The uniforms fetched 43,000

Ceremonial uniforms belonging to unionist legend Sir Edward Carson have been sold at auction for £43,000.

National Museums Northern Ireland bought the robes at Whytes auction house in Dublin.

The costumes purchased by National Museums NI include Carson's official court dress as solicitor-general.

It intends to put them on public display along with other artefacts relating to the creation of Northern Ireland at the newly reopened Ulster Museum in Belfast.

The lot also attracted interest from a private collector in the USA, however, he dropped out of the bidding at 40,000 euro.

Last week, the DUP's Ian Paisley Jr had called on the Stormont executive to buy the uniforms and to display them at the newly renovated Ulster Museum.

Negotiations had taken place between the uniforms' owner, the Northern Ireland government and Ulster Museum before they were offered for auction.

Mr Paisley's father Ian Snr is also a collector of Carson memorabilia and had the chance to purchase the uniform directly from the Carson family about 30 years ago.

The family had asked Mr Paisley if he was interested in buying some items which belonged to the former Ulster Unionist leader.

Mr Paisley purchased a number of them for his collection, but was unable to fit the uniform in the boot of his car.

In February 1910, Dublin-born Carson became leader of the Irish Unionist Parliamentary Party and in June 1911 accepted an invitation to lead the Ulster Unionists.

In 1912, he was the first of 500,000 people to put his name to the Ulster Covenant against the Irish Home Rule Bill.

He led the campaign against home rule which eventually resulted in the partition of Ireland in 1921.

He also served as attorney general, and first lord of the admiralty in the British cabinet during the first world war.

Sir Edward Carson
Sir Edward Carson is one of the prominent figures in unionist history

Dr Jim McGreeby of National Museums Northern Ireland said they were very pleased to have acquired the uniforms.

"Sir Edward Carson was a formidable lawyer and one of the most prominent politicians of his time. He played a defining role in shaping our history," he said.

"The acquisition offers opportunities for the future display of the uniforms in appropriate historical contexts not least the forthcoming centenary in 2012 of the Ulster Covenant, an event already referenced in the Ulster Museum through the very pen used by Carson to sign the Covenant."

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said both the auction house and the seller of the uniforms were happy with the price reached given the current economic climate.

"We are happy enough and the owner is happy to have sold them for that price and I think the owner is also happy they are staying in Northern Ireland," he said.

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