Despite fierce bidding by the National Library, the letter went to singer Enya’s manager Mickey Ryan in an auction held at James Adam showrooms on Dublin’s Stephen’s Green last night.
Mr Ryan said he wanted the letter to remain in Ireland.
The final price of €28,000 was four times higher than the previous record for a Michael Collins letter and far exceeded the guide price of €8,000.
“It really was knockout stuff. The phone bidders didn’t even get a look in,” said auction cataloguer Peter Sheen. “The National Library fought all the way and kept knocking out bidders but in the end the letter went to a private bidder for €1,000 more at €22,000.”
Additional charges brought the final selling price of the Collins letter to €28,000. It is one of the few political letters by the assassinated leader known to be in existence.
The letter, dated February 7, 1922, was sent to a leading Derry-based republican Louis J Walsh a month after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty to reassure Northern nationalists that they wouldn’t be abandoned following the establishment of the Border.
“I must confess, however, that I am no lover of partition, no matter in what form it appears. Any kind of even temporary partition is distasteful to me,” wrote Collins.
The three-page letter on Irish Provisional Government-headed notepaper is in remarkably good condition given that it was stored in a wallet for over three decades.
In the letter, Collins also outlines his position to Walsh on negotiations held in London and how he believed he had outwitted the unionist leader James Craig.
It is the first time the historical document, signed “Micheál Ó Coileain”, has been made available for sale by public auction. Its owner, an unidentified Northern Ireland collector, had acquired it privately several years ago.
According to James Adam, interest in the document from private collectors and institutions at home and abroad was phenomenal.
In the past week, the company received numerous queries from buyers in Britain, the US and Australia, as well as Ireland.
The National Library also bid heavily for the document, despite the fact that its purchasing power has been restricted following the €12.6m it spent on acquiring transcripts by James Joyce last year.
“Letters like this are incredibly rare as all the official archives which would have contained correspondence from Collins were destroyed. All that survived are his love letters to Kitty Kiernan, which were largely non-political,” said Mr Sheen.
He said interest in Collins memorabilia was currently “red-hot”.
“Items associated with Collins attract more interest than all other major Irish political figures of the 20th century put together. If we had a letter from Collins complaining about how his suit was cut it would fetch €3,000 to €4,000.”