Details of a bitter row over an insurance policy on the life of Irish rebel leader Padraig Pearse have emerged – almost a hundred years after he was executed by the British.

New documents have come to light which outline the dispute between a bank and an insurance company after Pearse was executed by firing squad for his part in leading the 1916 Rising.

The papers, to be auctioned as part of a collection in Dublin next month, offer a fascinating insight into the row between the Hibernian Bank in Dublin and the Sun Life Assurance company in London.

Pearse died owing a large debt to the Bank after raising $150,000 via a mortgage on his home to fund the establishment of a primary school St Enda’s.

He handed the bank his life insurance policy and the deeds of his family home as collateral.

The Irish Times reports that Pearse ‘solemnly’ promised to repay the bank by signing promissory notes.

Within days of his death, Hibernian Bank wrote to the Sun Life Assurance Society in London demanding a payout on Pearse’s life policy.

The report states: “The insurance company initially refused to pay on the grounds that if an assured person is killed in a duel, or feloniously destroys himself, or dies by the hand of the common hangman, or public executioner, the Policy is void.

“However, Hibernian Bank did not let the matter rest and sought advice from its solicitors. The bank warned of legal proceedings and threatened to halt the sale of Sun Life products through its network of branches in Ireland.

“Following a frantic and tetchy exchange of letters, Sun Life ‘desirous of dealing with the case in a liberal spirit’ eventually caved in and paid the bank £329.16s.4d under an agreement not to allow any proceeds to benefit the Estate of the Life Assured.”

Pearse had intended that his estate benefit his mother and two sisters but they never received a penny.

The Irish Times report adds that the payout only cleared half of Pearse’s debt to the bank. Hibernian Bank was taken over by Bank of Ireland in 1958 and two years later the Pearse family home was sold.

Some of the proceeds were used to pay off the balance of the outstanding promissory notes owed by Pearse, 44 years after his death.

The files, found recently in paperwork belonging to a solicitor, could fetch up to $3,000 at auction next month. 

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said: “This was a squalid dispute between two financial institutions over the estate of the dead patriot, who, before his death, was a valued customer of both.”

Padraig PearseGoogle Images