Friday, 31 July 2015

Roger Casement: Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

A celebrated humanitarian, anti-slavery campaigner, poet and Irish nationalist, Casement had come to Germany when the First World War was at its height, to recruit German support and weapons for an uprising against British rule in Ireland. For this crime he would be hanged, a year later, in Pentonville Prison.

A British citizen and former consular official, Roger Casement was found guilty of treason. But he was executed because he was homosexual, the victim of a conspiracy to prevent his reprieve that involved Scotland Yard, MI5 and the cabinet. Alan Turing, whose prosecution for homosexuality undoubtedly contributed to his death in 1954, has received an apology from the British government and a pardon from the Queen. But the case of Casement is even more egregious, since it involved government officials actively using prejudice against homosexuality to ensure he went to the gallows, discredited and reviled.

With next year’s centenary of the Casement trial, the government has an opportunity to right that wrong: a formal apology would remove a long-running source of friction in Anglo-Irish relations and demonstrate how far we have moved on from the homophobia of a century ago...

I'm sure a Royal Pardon would have meant so much to the revolutionary Irish Republican.

Oh, and the heroic Mr Casement's conviction for 'treason' is a bit different from Turing's one for 'gross indecency', the latter's no longer a crime for one.

PS You may enjoy yesterday's Radio 4 documentary on the strange case of Victor Grayson, the gay socialist MP who disappeared in 1920...

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