Taoiseach Calls for Casement Enquiry

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (Autumn 1999), News, News, Volume 7

Sir Roger Casement was one of a number of patriots, who came from a different tradition. He was of Antrim Presbyterian stock, and gave exemplary service not just to the British Colonial Office but to mankind, in exposing the slavery and inhumanity suffered at the hands of imperialism by native peoples of the Belgium Congo and Peru. He discovered there a pernicious system that had also been at work in Ireland. He was then prepared to sacrifice career and reputation to help Ireland achieve its freedom, and he was involved in organising the Howth gun-running at the German end. Some of his subsequent actions after the outbreak of war may have been misguided, but his patriotism towards Ireland was pure. When he landed at Banna Strand and was captured in April 1916, he was put on trial in Britain for treason and condemned. Not alone that, alleged homosexual diaries were selectively circulated to discourage those who might seek mercy for him. Today, under our legislation of 1993, sexual orientation is thankfully no longer even nominally a crime, but then it was regarded as a source of terminal disgrace and dishonour. In 1965, the British government of Harold Wilson returned the remains of Casement to Ireland in an honourable act of reconciliation. But there is one step further that we need to go.
A number of historians working in the field have now compared the so called ‘white diaries’ with parallel ‘black diaries’ and have come to the renewed conclusion that the latter were forged. Others over the years have argued they were genuine. But I think in justice to the memory of Sir Roger Casement there is now a compelling prima facie case for a new and rigorous enquiry into the provenance and genuineness of the so-called ‘black diaries’. The issue is not one of interpretation but of fact. The truth ought to be possible to determine, using modern forensic and analytical techniques. I propose in the first instance to ask the Royal Irish Academy to organise a seminar on the subject, so that the different evidence and conclusions can be debated.
It is also my intention to request the British Government to enquire of all its relevant Ministers and agencies, if they can throw any further light on the subject, and to enquire of them if they are in possession of information that has not yet been released to the origin and authorship of the ‘black diaries’. No conceivable interest relating to national security can now pertain.


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