None of the leaders of 1916 have touched the Irish as much as has Casement. He dreamed of the destiny of Ireland. And he was hung for his dreams. When his body, or the remains and traces of his body, came home to a free Ireland, a sovereign Ireland, then the Irish for whom he had dreamed, turned out in their hundreds of thousands to watch him pass, from Arbour Hill to the Pro- Cathedral, from the Cathedral to Glasnevin with a poignant pause at the GPO, drawn by Ireland’s own soldiers, before his own, independent people, to be laid in Irish soil, free, Independent, the sovereign soil of Ireland. It was our grandparents, our fathers our mothers uncles sisters and brothers who turned out to watch him pass.. Some, reading this, who might feel terribly old, may have themselves have stood on those streets to watch him pass.
We name parks after him, streets, squares, sports fields, and children. There are songs and statues and his story is passed from generation to generation.
With 2016 almost upon us we are searching for ways to remember 1916, to remember without glorifying the violence, but recalling the nobility of the cause and the dreams of men and women who were the advocates of what we were to become.
In this beautiful and timely contribution, Mike O’Donnell takes us from the sandy footprints of Casement on the Atlantic coast of Banna Strand and we follow those footsteps, from his capture by the RIC, to the Tower of London and through the English Courts and his lonely prison cells, and inevitably, up the wooden steps of the English Gallows. And we are with him again as he is dug from the wet quicklimed soil of a Pentonville prison yard and carried on an special Aer Lingus flight, home to his beloved Ireland.
There have been more academic tomes, biographies, novels, popular books and learned articles written of Casement than any other Irish patriot. Why is it that he touches us so deeply? I suspect Mike O’Donnell has captured the magic of the story rather better than most, caught Casement’s passion for Ireland, the poetry of his dreams for Ireland, and the tragedy of his end. And then, the beauty of his re- internment in the land he loved.
Mike O’Donnell is a man who takes early morning runs along the Atlantic beach where Casement landed from his German submarine, and where he was captured, his feet still wet from the sea, by the Irish he came to free. I suspect this poem, this play, was composed, at least in part, on those windswept runs. It is caught in the writing here. The wild sea, the tragedy, the magic of Casement.
John McGuiggan, The Law Library,Dublin
The book is avilible to download from Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Casements-Casement-OConnell-Cantillon-ebook