On this day in history : 29th June 1916 – British diplomat Sir Roger Casement, an Irish patriot, is sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland….
Casement was the British consul in Portuguese East Africa and was well regarded and respected for his work…. He published his Congo report in 1904 which led to major changes in the Belgian rule of the Congo and his Putumayo report of 1912 gained him a knighthood….
In 1912 he retired to Ireland due to ill health as a result of the malaria he had contracted from his time in the Congo…. Although Casement came from a Protestant background he sympathised with the Irish Catholic Nationalists…. In 1913 he helped form the Irish National Volunteers and travelled to New York in 1914 to promote the cause and raise money for the Volunteers from among the large Irish community in New York….
After the outbreak of World War 1 Casement travelled to Berlin via Norway – he considered himself an ambassador for Ireland…. The idea was that if Germany would supply guns to the Volunteers and provide military leadership the Irish would revolt against the English diverting attention away from the war with Germany….
However on arriving in Germany in November 1914 he discovered the German government were not willing to risk an expedition to Ireland…. Another blow was that the majority of Irish prisoners of war being held in Germany, who he had intended to recruit to the cause, refused to give their support…. To add to all of this he could only secure a fraction of the guns he was hoping for….
When he learned that an uprising had been planned for the Easter of 1916 he knew that without the full quota of weapons and the lack of military support that he had to get back to Ireland to try and prevent it…. He returned on board a German submarine, departing on the 12th of April and was dropped off in County Kerry on the 21st of April – just 3 days before the planned uprising….
However, on his return Casement was suffering from a bout of malaria and was too weak to travel…. The British, who had been intercepting German radio communications, knew that there was something afoot and that there was going to be an attempt to land arms in Ireland…. Casement was quickly found and on the 24th of June he was arrested and taken to London….
At his highly publicised trial on the 29th of June Casement was found guilty of treason, sabotage and espionage – and sentenced to hang…. He was also stripped of his knighthood….
Casement was hanged at Pentoville Prison on the 3rd of August 1916 – on the day of his execution he was, at his request, received into the Catholic Church…. He was buried in the prison cemetery but in 1965, after many formal requests had previously been refused by the British government, he was repatriated to Ireland…. Here he was given a state funeral and buried with full military honours in the Republican plot of Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin….