50 original letters to and from Roger Casement in the three years leading up to his execution are being placed on public display at Clare Museum from this Thursday (24th March 2016) as part of the 1916 Centenary Commemorative events hosted by Clare County Council’s Archives Service.
The Roger Casement Papers, which date from Casement’s arrival in Germany in 1914 to the very month he leaves Germany in 1916 on the U-19 submarine, were originally donated to Clare County Council in 1969 by the late solicitor Ignatius M. Houlihan.
The significance of the Irish nationalist’s papers was identified by archivist Roisin Berry after they were transferred to the Archives Service from Clare County Library’s Local Studies Centre in 2003.
The collection contains correspondence mostly between Casement and Count Gebhard Blücher, a German friend from his days in Africa, but also contains receipts, essays, leaflets and newspaper cuttings. Letters within the collection provide a glimpse of the Irish-German background to the Easter Rising and Ireland’s claim to political independence.
The collection gives an insights into the enlisting of Irishmen in the first World War, the appointment of an envoy from England to the Vatican, the Findlay affair, the work of Father Crotty who was working among Irishmen in German prison camps, writing articles for the press, keeping a diary, and the desire for peace.
The correspondence also reveals Casement’s feelings on the war, where he notes in a letter to Count Blücher ‘The only cheering thing is that the Irish are not enlisting. That is killed anyhow – & the 200,000 men they had expected from Ireland to cut the German throat will not come up to the knife’ (12 January 1914).
Born in Dublin in 1864, Casement achieved fame for his humanitarian work while a British consular official. Casement’s humanitarian work was rewarded in 1911 with a knighthood. He resigned from the Foreign Office in 1913 and devoted the rest of his life to the cause of Irish freedom and helped to form the Irish Volunteers in 1913.
The last letter is one from Casement, dated April 4th, 1916, just 11 days before his departure for Ireland on a German U-boat, which landed him on Banna Strand in Kerry on Good Friday, 1916.
Casement was hanged by the British government for his role in the 1916 Rising and died in Pentonville prison on 3 August 1916.
In a letter to Count Blücher in February 1916 he writes: ‘The only thing I really want is peace-peace all round. I am sick to death of all the rest-the hopeless folly of the whole thing-the organised madness-the scientific insanity-called ‘war’-‘victory’-‘glory’-how vain and hopeless it is.’