Molly Muldoon for IrishCentral.com, June 9, 2011:
One of the two original tricolor flags which was flown from the GPO during the 1916 rising, has been unveiled at the American Irish Historical Society.
The highly symbolic relic of Irish independence has been given on long-term loan to the organization.
The hand stitched green, white and gold flag is made of Irish linen and measures 74 x 159cm.
Today the flag, almost one hundred years old, is insured for $1 million. The flag failed to sell in March of last year, when it was put up for auction in New York. It had been expected to fetch up to $700,000, however did not make the reserve price of $500,000.
In the days following the Easter Rising the flag was taken by a British soldier after the surrender and was later given to a doctor in Lisburn County Antrim, in turn his son-in-law donated the iconic flag to John Sweetman, one of the founding members of Sinn Fein. It has since remained in the ownership of the the Sweetman family.
On Wednesday, Ian Whyte the director of Whyte’s, Ireland’s leading art and collectibles auction house, representing the Sweetman family, formally handed over the flag to Christopher Cahill, Executive Director of the American Irish Historical Society.
“The family are delighted to have this important icon of Irish history displayed in the AIHS in New York,” Whyte said, speaking on behalf of the Sweetman estate.
“It is fitting that this tricolor is now in the USA, home to over forty million people of Irish descent.” Whyte added.
The other flag which flew over the GPO is housed in the National Museum of Ireland.
The AIHS is hopeful the flag will become a focal point for the American commemoration of the Centenary of the Rising in 2016.
Dr Kevin Cahill of the AIHS, told IrishCentral the society was delighted to showcase such a symbolic piece of Irish history.
Also in attendance for the unveiling was Noel Kilkenny, the Irish Consul General of New York.