British diplomat, Dubliner and anti-colonialist Sir Roger Casement was executed for treason for smuggling German weapons to the 1916 leaders
A full State commemoration for Roger Casement was led by President Michael D Higgins at Banna Strand near Tralee in April 2016. Roger Casement was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising on August 3rd 1916 at Pentonville Prison in the UK.
The event marked the arrival by German U-boat of Casement a hundred years ago. President Higgins described Casement’s act as the last stand of a patriot and international humanitarian.
Tricolours lined the route from Tralee and up to to 4,000 people attended the 90-minute long ceremony involving the navy, army, and air corps. Casement, along with Captain Robert Monteith and Daniel Bailey of the Irish Brigade were at Banna to rendezvous with the Aud, a ship carrying 20,000 rifles from Germany which Casement had organised for the Easter Rising.
But the Aud and its cargo were scuttled by its German captain Karl Spindler while being escorted by the British navy through Cork Harbour.
At last week’s ceremony crew of the Irish Navy vessel the LÉ Niamh stood to attention a mile off shore as President Higgins laid a wreath at the recovered anchor from the Aud displayed on the strand.
A piper sounded a lament, the tricolour was raised, the last post was sounded, the Military Band from Collins Barracks played the national anthem, and there was a fly past just over the wreath-laying scene by the Irish Air Corps…appropriately enough from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnell.
The Proclamation was read by Lieutenant Dermot Considine of the 12th Infantry Battalion in Sarsfield Barracks read the Proclamation and actor Declan Mc- Carthy, from West Cork read extracts from Casement’s speech from the dock, after he was convicted of treason.
President Higgins said Casement had contributed to Irish freedom and to the universal struggle for justice and human dignity because he had exposed the horrors of Belgian colonialism in the Congo and abuses in South America.
“Roger Casement was not just a great Irish patriot, he was also one of the great humanitarians of the early 20th century, a man who is remembered fondly by so many people across the world for his courageous work in exposing the darkness that lay at the heart of European imperialism.
“This afternoon, as we come together at the location of Roger Casement’s last stand as an activist and Irish revolutionary, it is appropriate that we recall the crucial part that he played in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916,” said the Irish President.
Casement’s vision was for “a true republic”, one that included all the people of all religions, north and south, he said The honour guard and military band were from the 12th Infantry Battalion in Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, and the Captains’ Escort of Honour was from 2 Cavalry Squadron at Cathal Brugha Barracks.
Two descendants of Casement were present: Christopher Farrington, great grandnephew of Casement, who travelled from Melbourne, Australia and Lesley McNaughton, a great grand-niece.
Meanwhile the dinghy used by Casement and his two associates went on display in Ireland at the end of April 2016. It is the first time it has been in this country since 1916 and was last on public display at an exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum in 1924.
The flat-bottomed boat, which measures 12′ x 4′ and is two feet high, is on loan to Kerry Museum and will form part of its Casement Exhibition. Curator of the exhibition Helen O’Carroll said Casement, Robert Monteith and Daniel Daly “were left off from the German Uboat and would have got into this boat and rowed to shore. It’s a tiny little boat for three men to fit in.
“In 1916 it was sent over to London, more or less as a trophy of war and presented by the inspector general of the RIC to the king, as if to show this was what they had done to capture the traitor Casement.”
The boat went on display at the Imperial War Museum until 1924 and was then held in storage.
Ms O’Carroll saw it in the museum’s catalogue: “It took a while to make sure it was the right boat, but I think there’s no doubt that this is the original boat.”