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Making a Case

Victims campaigner wants patriot buried at beauty spot 104 years after his execution

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Jude Whyte at Murlough Bay memorial this week

Jude Whyte at Murlough Bay memorial this week

Jude Whyte lays a wreath at Murlough Bay to Roger Casement, above, at the spot he wanted to be laid to rest

Jude Whyte lays a wreath at Murlough Bay to Roger Casement, above, at the spot he wanted to be laid to rest

Murlough Bay near Ballycastle offers stunning views over the Irish Sea

Murlough Bay near Ballycastle offers stunning views over the Irish Sea

Roger Casement

Roger Casement

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Jude Whyte at Murlough Bay memorial this week

"Theoretically, what we want to do shouldn't be a problem for both the Irish government and Stormont," says Jude Whyte, as he lays a wreath at the foot of the memorial to Easter Rising leader Roger Casement.

"I mean, we're trying to get back an Irish Prod who had a knighthood. How much more cross-community can you get?"

The cross, made of logs, protrudes from a knoll overlooking the Sea of Moyle on a muggy, misty morning.

Jude points across the water to a ghostly wedge of land pushing its way into the foreground.

"You can see why Roger Casement chose Murlough Bay as his final resting place. Right there in front of us is the Mull of Kintyre, and to the right, Spoon Island. Over to the left you can see Rathlin Island and in the distance the Paps of Jura in Scotland."

History

The bay itself is steeped in history. Not only is it the place where Casement spent much of his childhood, it was also home to Lord Londonderry, the first education minister for Northern Ireland, as well as the MP Gerry Fitt, who lived beside the bay for the last five years of his life.

However, today victims campaigner Jude is here for Roger Casement and to talk about his campaign to have his remains moved from Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to Murlough Bay, where Casement stated he wished to be buried.

"Casement was in many ways one of the first human rights activists, and arguably one of the first black lives matter advocates.

"He was born in Dublin but raised by his uncle John here in Murlough, and he was educated at Ballymena Academy.

"He then joined the service where he served in the Congo and in Peru. It was in the Congo where he exposed the brutality of the regime run by King Leopold II of Belgium."

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Jude Whyte lays a wreath at Murlough Bay to Roger Casement, above, at the spot he wanted to be laid to rest

Jude Whyte lays a wreath at Murlough Bay to Roger Casement, above, at the spot he wanted to be laid to rest

Jude Whyte lays a wreath at Murlough Bay to Roger Casement, above, at the spot he wanted to be laid to rest

In Peru, Casement wrote of the inhumane conditions suffered by the native Putumayo Indians who had been enslaved in the rubber trade.

In 1911 he was awarded a knighthood for his work in Peru, having earlier been appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1905 for his work exposing the racist regime in the Congo.

However, it is for his Irish revolutionary status that Casement is known in Ireland, having resigned from the British consular service in 1913 and becoming involved in the formation of the Irish Volunteers late in the same year.

Notably, in 1914, Casement embarked on an ill-fated trip to Germany to return Irish prisoners of war to Ireland to fight for the Irish Volunteers.

Jude explained: "It was quite brave of Casement to travel to Germany with the intention of bringing Irish fighters who had been captured back, but it didn't work. Of the thousands of Irish prisoners the Germans had captured, only a few of them volunteered.

"He also went with the aim of returning with weapons, but he didn't get them either."

The weaponry which had been sent from Germany was intercepted on their way to Ireland by a Royal Navy ship.

In 1916, after travelling by German submarine to the coast of Kerry three days ahead of the Easter Rising, Casement was arrested on charges of high treason, sabotage and espionage.

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Roger Casement

Roger Casement

Roger Casement

He was taken to London and, during his trial, his defence suggested they forward the Black Diaries, which were Casement's journals in which he wrote of his homosexual encounters, so they could offer the defence of 'guilty but insane'.

Jude added: "Casement refused. If he had agreed to plead insanity he might have been jailed only for a few years, but he was sentenced to hanging at Pentonville Prison.

"After he was sentenced to death quite a number of prominent people tried to intervene on Casement's behalf, including WB Yeats and Arthur Conan Doyle.

"The priest, Fr Carey, who attended his hanging said Casement went to his death with the dignity of a prince. Even the hangman said he hadn't overseen the execution of a braver man.

"At his burial, the priest who was present, Fr McCarroll, said 'I was the sole mourner at his grave, but all of Ireland was present'."

Returned

Casement - who was executed 104 years ago tomorrow - was initially buried in the jail's cemetery after his hanging in 1916, but after a campaign by the Irish government, his remains were returned in 1965.

Now Jude - who lost his mother during the Troubles - wants to fulfil the dying wish of Casement and return his remains to Murlough Bay where he spent his happy childhood years, and fulfil his dying wish: 'Don't let me lie here, get me back to Murlough to the McCarry House overlooking the Sea of Moyle, that is where I'd like to be.'

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Murlough Bay near Ballycastle offers stunning views over the Irish Sea

Murlough Bay near Ballycastle offers stunning views over the Irish Sea

Murlough Bay near Ballycastle offers stunning views over the Irish Sea

Jude and those behind the campaign have laid wreaths at four sites around Ireland as a marker of their intention and to raise awareness of their campaign.

"Today we've lain a wreath at the cross in memorial of Roger Casement here at Murlough. It's beside the cross where we would like to bury his remains, overlooking the bay.

"We've also placed wreaths at the Casement Social Club in west Belfast, at his current grave in Glasnevin Cemetery and at Banna Strand in County Kerry where he came ashore before he was arrested. Our fist challenge will be to get the Irish government to agree to allow us to remove his remains from the cemetery at Glasnevin, then we'll have to speak to the government at Stormont about allowing us to bury him at Murlough.

"We could have his remains returned to Murlough by Christmas, or it could take us another 50 years, we don't know, but the's not going to harm anyone, we're simply fulfilling a man's dying wish."

jamie.mcdowell@sundayworld.com

Irish Independent