A new campaign to reinter the remains of Easter Rising leader Roger Casement has been launched in West Belfast.
Brought up in County Antrim, Mr Casement was a former human rights activist and British diplomat. In April 1916, he was captured by British forces after trying to smuggle 20,000 German rifles into Ireland near Banna Strand, County Kerry.
He was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on August 3, 1916, before his remains were buried in quicklime in the jail’s cemetery.
For decades the British government refused several requests for his remains to be handed over to Irish authorities. Eventually in 1965 they were transferred on condition they were not brought to the north of Ireland. Mr Casement was later reinterred at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
However, his last wish was to be buried at Murlough Bay, in predominately unionist north Antrim. The request was refused by British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who feared reburial there would provoke “Protestant reactions”.
Members of Casement Social Club, which is based at Casement Park in west Belfast, are launching a campaign for his remains to be returned to the north. Last week, a newly formed committee unveiled a new mural of Roger Casement on the Andersonstown Road.
The unveiling on Casement’s anniversary, which coincided with wreath laying ceremonies in Banna Strand, Glasnevin, Murlough Bay and his native Sandycove, marked the beginning to of a campaign to “bring home his remains”.
Club member Jude Whyte, who has helped spearhead the initiative, said that it is time for objections to the reburial in the north to be put aside.
“This is an apolitical thing in many respects,” he said.
“Our objective is just to honour a dying man’s wishes. A man who, in our opinion, was probably the first advocate for Black Lives Matter, and probably the first real humanitarian in that he was knighted for exposing cruelties and abuse of human rights in the Congo, Peru and Putupayo.”
He added: “This is step one on what could be a 50 year or five year campaign. This man is a danger to nobody, all we are doing is trying to bring a dead soul executed 104 years ago back to where he wants to be.”