EASTER Rising rebel Roger Casement was not a “great patriot” but a “traitor to the United Kingdom”, one of the North of Ireland’s leading politicians has said.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Nelson McCausland made the controversial comments in response to Irish President Michael D Higgins’ wreath-laying to mark the centenary of Casement’s arrest in Co. Kerry.
Mr Higgins was in Banna, Co. Kerry on Thursday (April 21) to mark the occasion – where he referred to Casement as a “great patriot” and commended his humanitarian work.
But Mr McCausland hit out at the comments, saying: “The simple truth is that Casement was not a ‘great patriot.’ He was a traitor to the United Kingdom and it was for treason that he was executed.”
“Casement was a deeply flawed and deeply troubled individual,” he added.
“He is portrayed as a campaigner for human rights abroad but his personal diaries tell the rather sordid story of his exploitative sexual relationships with many young men whom he met abroad.”
Casement’s “Black Diaries” referenced his alleged numerous homosexual affairs with men he met while travelling the world – many republicans maintain these were invented by the British to slander his name when he was in captivity.
But forensic examination of the diaries carried out by London’s Goldsmith’s College in 2003 revealed that the diary entries were written by Casement himself.
After spending several years working as a British diplomat in far-flung countries, Casement became involved with the Irish republican movement.
He volunteered to sail to Germany in an effort to secure men and arms for the Easter Rising – and was arrested at Banna Strand in Kerry on April 24, 1916 – the same day the Rising began.
“While so many Irishmen and Ulstermen, Protestant and Roman Catholic, were fighting against the Germans on the battlefields of Europe, Casement wanted a German army to invade Ireland,” Mr McCausland said.
“He also tried to recruit an Irish brigade from amongst the Irish soldiers who were prisoners-of-war in Germany. Casement wanted them to fight against the British but he secured only a paltry handful of volunteers and his effort ended in abysmal failure.”
Casement was the final 1916 rebel to be executed for his part in the Rising.
Unlike his comrades, who were executed by firing squad in Dublin, he was hanged in London in August 1916.
In last week’s commemorative ceremony, President Higgins laid a wreath and unveiled Kerry County Museum’s first major exhibition on Dublin-born Casement’s life.