Irish president’s celebration of Casement ‘endorsing a myth’

Irish president Michael D Higgins lays a wreath during a ceremony at Banna Strand in Co Kerry to mark the centenary of the capture and execution of Sir Roger Casement. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Irish president Michael D Higgins lays a wreath during a ceremony at Banna Strand in Co Kerry to mark the centenary of the capture and execution of Sir Roger Casement. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Nelson McCausland has hit out at Michael D Higgins after the Irish president praised 1916 rebel leader Roger Casement as a national hero.

The former Stormont culture minister was commenting following a day of commemorations on Thursday in honour of the former British diplomat-turned gunrunner.

Mr Higgins laid a wreath at a monument dedicated to Casement’s role in the 1916 rebellion at Banna Strand in Co Kerry, and also at a State ceremony overlooking the sea where the rebel arrived in a German U-boat.

Mr McCausland said the Irish president had presented a “carefully worded endorsement of the myth of Roger Casement as an Irish nationalist martyr”.

“However,” the DUP assembly candidate said, “Casement was a deeply flawed and deeply troubled individual. 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.”

Mr McCausland added: “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.

“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.

“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 hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, on August 3 1916 after being found guilty of treason. His remains were returned to Dublin in 1965.

The German and British ambassadors to Ireland, Matthias Hopfner and Dominick Chilcott, also attended the ceremony.

President Higgins also opened the country’s first major exhibition on Casement at the Kerry County Museum.

He described Casement as a full-blown Irish revolutionary.

“Today we must also recall how, in a true republican spirit, Roger Casement’s generous vision for the Ireland of the future was one that included all of the people of Northern Ireland, in the diversity of their beliefs, origins and history,” he said.

“This was a vision which Casement recalled in that same speech from the dock, when he said: ‘We aimed at uniting the Ulster Volunteers to the cause of United Ireland. We aimed at uniting all Irishmen in a natural and national bond of cohesion based on mutual self-respect’.”

Last month, republicans were criticised for circulating pictures of an Easter lily tribute to Roger Casement which had been placed on a captured U-boat gun in Bangor’s Ward Park - the gun from the U19 submarine said to have transported the rebel leader to Co Kerry from Germany.

Further republican tributes were placed at gun yesterday with photographs also circulated on social media.