Roger Casement commemoration
On Saturday 3rd August, 2013, republicans and socialists alike gathered at Murlough Bay on the north Antrim coast to pay tribute to the life and sacrifice of Roger Casement – humanitarian, patriot and Glensman.
Chairing proceedings, local éirígí activist Conchúr Mac Cárthaigh welcomed the assembled crowd to the first annual Roger Casement Commemoration, jointly hosted by the socialist-republican party, éirígí, and the Irish Republican Martyrs Commemoration Committee (IRMCC).
Highlighting both the significance of the date and the relevance of the location, Conchúr explained that, “On this very day, 97 years ago, Roger Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison in England for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916” and that as he climbed the gallows, “we may speculate as to whether he paid more than a passing thought to the very bay in which stand… (his) burial ground of choice, his favourite place in his preferred nation.”
Before observing a minutes silence in memory of the sacrifice of Roger Casement and, indeed, all those who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of Irish freedom, Mac Cárthaigh read aloud an extract from Casement’s eloquent, yet defiant, speech from the dock:
‘Ireland, that has wronged no man, has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others – Ireland is being treated today among the nations of the world as if she were a convicted criminal. If it be treason to fight against such an unnatural fate as this, then I am proud to be a rebel, and shall cling to my “rebellion” with the last drop of my blood.’
Wreaths were then laid by John McCusker, éirígí, and Fergal Maguire, IRMCC, at the monument to Roger Casement.
Beside that monument lies an empty grave which many years ago was prepared for the return of Casement’s remains.
In contempt of and with complete disregard for Casement’s dying wish, the Free State government, when seeking the repatriation of Casement’s body from Pentonville prison, conceded to a British government demand that Casement’s remains would not be re-interred anywhere in the Six Counties.
Instead, Casement’s body was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery in 1965.
Máire Drumm, lifelong republican, former political prisoner and chairperson of the IRMCC, was then warmly welcomed as the main speaker at the proceedings.
In thanking the organisers for inviting her to speak at their first annual commemoration, Máire professed a personal affinity with the memory of Roger Casement, someone who was a source of immense and sustained inspiration to her late mother and former Vice President of Sinn Féin, Máire Drumm, murdered by British state sponsored death squads whilst undergoing treatment in the Mater Hospital in Belfast in 1976.
In memory of their shared ideals and sacrifices, Máire explained that, “the national flag draped over this vacant graveside today is the same national flag draped over the coffin of my mother as she made her way to her own martyr’s grave.”
It was as fitting, Máire continued, to remember Roger Casement in north Antrim, an area with a proud republican tradition stretching back to 1798 as it was “heartening to see éirígí active in this area, and alongside the Irish Republican Martyrs Commemoration Committee, organising the first of what will be an annual event commemorating the execution of Roger Casement.”
Although best remembered, perhaps, for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916, Máire outlined the complexity of character and depth of involvement of Casement, who was an Irish language activist, a member of the Gaelic League and a human rights advocate, who was involved in the formation of the Irish Volunteers and sought continental European support to free Ireland from the colonial grips of England.
Having been captured at Banna Strand, County Kerry, on Friday 21 April, Roger Casement was transported to England to face trial for ‘High Treason against the Crown’. Throughout his trial, despite being born in Dublin, and avowedly Irish, Casement was repeatedly referred to as an Englishman and a traitor, to which Máire reported his response as:
‘I am neither an Englishman nor a traitor. I am an Irishman – captured in a fair attempt to achieve the independence of my country.’
And it was this loyalty to Ireland, Máire stated, that was to see him hanged.
Máire finished with an extract from one of Casement’s final declarations, demonstrating that, even in the face of certain death, his final thoughts were of his beloved Glens, in which he commanded: ‘When they have done with me, do not leave my body in this dreadful place. Take me back to Murlough and let my bones lie there.’
To sustained applause, Máire Drumm announced, “It is our demand that the remains of Roger Casement be finally interred where Casement wished to be buried. Here, in this very spot, in Murlough Bay.”
Drawing the commemoration to a close, Conchúr Mac Cárthaigh thanked everyone for their attendance, and paid particular thanks to those local people “whose collective assistance, encouragement and comradeship was, and remains, very much appreciated.”
Mac Cárthaigh concluded by stating on behalf of the organisers that, “This commemorative event, modest as it may be, is not only laying down a marker for future commemorations but it is also raising a flag for progressive socialist republicanism which is, once again, alive and well in the Glens of Antrim. Beirigí bua!”
Posted on August 12, 2013, in British state repression (general), Commemorations, General revolutionary history, Prisoners - past, Public events - Ireland, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, The road to the Easter Rising. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Roger Casement commemoration.