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THE WORKERS PARTY

The 2024 DLR Roger Casement Summer School

Who was Roger Casement?

Roger Casement was born in 29 Sandycove Rd. on September 1st, 1864. Casement was an anti-imperialist.

He worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat and later became a humanitarian activist, poet and Easter Rising leader. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, Britain honoured him in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo. Six years later he was knighted for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru.

Casement grew to distrust imperialism. After retiring from consular service in 1913, he became more involved with Irish republicanism and other separatist movements. During World War I he made efforts to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence. He was arrested, stripped of his knighthood and other honours, convicted and executed for high treason on August 3rd, 1916.

Summer School

Most of this year’s Roger Casement Summer School took place on Saturday 27 April in the Eblana Club in Dún Laoghaire. Starting at 9.30 am and finishing with a social that went on till late, the heritage event included talks, enactments, a reading from a winning essay, and a challenging polemic from the perspective of the Global South.

To a packed audience, the Indian historian, Vijay Prashad, provided a view from the Global South on the subject of movement towards a new multi-polar world order. This was reported in the Irish Times (4 May 2024) by Paul Gillespie in a piece headed, “Moves to address the decadent and dangerous balance of world power must be based on evidence”. Suffice to say Prashad’s choice of subject and much of his critique of Western power would have resonated with Roger Casement.

Another high point, this time critical of Casement, was when the author of a just published biography, Roland Philipps, presented a paper, “Roger Casement: Sheer Emotionalism”. This focussed on Casement’s background and upbringing and the psychological marks these left on his later life. Philipps, while approaching his subject from a British perspective, was not hostile to Casement—he expressed agreement with every word read out by this year’s winner of the Casement Essay Competition, Conor Quigley from Oatlands College.

Not surprisingly, members of the audience questioned some of the claims made by the presenter. One speaker asked had he investigated the psychological influences in the life of Winston Churchill? Another argued the case that the famous black diaries were forged by the authorities. There was a lively exchange of views, and the point was made that the merits of a thorough account of Casement’s life could not be decided in a short discussion; a long review of this important biography from a member of the Casement Committee will be submitted to a suitable journal in due course.

Immediately following the Roland Philipps session, Conor O’Malley gave an account of “Prisoner of the Crown” a play about the Casement trial in London by an American playwright, Richard Stockton. O’Malley was himself the director of a recent production of the play running to full houses over three nights in the theatre of the Lexicon Library. His talk was greatly enhanced by enactments from the play performed by some of the actors. The effect was to bring to life some of the issues that had just been aired in the previous session.

There was much else on offer at the Summer School. Honor Ó Brolcháin presented slides on the Save Moore Street campaign, enlivening her talk with historical insights like the relationship between Joseph Plunkett and Casement. Wannette Tuinstra, presenting on “Stateless Nations”, outlined how many ethnicities have no state, constitute minorities in different states, or both. She included in the category of divided stateless nations her own ethnicity of Fryslan which is divided between the Netherlands and Germany. She used a statement by Casement to explain how nations are rarely made up of a single race.

On the previous evening as part of the Summer School, Misunderstanding Islam, Misunderstanding Al Aqsa by Dave Alvey was launched by Siraj Zaidi.