By Shaun Ivory
While the 1916 Rising undoubtedly changed the course of Irish history it also produced an unexpected side effect, i.e., one of the country’s largest mass-compensation claims. Details have just emerged from the fusty filing cabinets of a century ago, albeit redolent with humour and pathos in unequal measure.
The national Archives of Ireland has launched a website detailing more than 6,500 claims involving art, jewellery, antiques and clothing purportedly lost or destroyed in the subsequent shelling and looting around the capital.
While most of the claims obviously relate to homes and businesses in Dublin the archives reveals the amount of personal effects that were affected too. Archivist Niamh McDonnell was given the enormous task of digitising the claims, a great deal of which involved Academy House on Lower Abbey Street.
This was home to the Royal Hibernian Academy. Unfortunately, the art organisation had been holding its annual exhibition at the time of the rebellion and the building was one of its first casualties. More than 500 works of art were on display, nearly all destroyed by fire, along with the academy’s own fine art books, prints and other artefacts.
Some people may have expected the owners and artists of such works on loan to have accepted such sacrifice as part of the price expected for Ireland’s freedom. Not so, according to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee.