Casement `found peace' in prison before execution


On July 3rd, 1916, one month before he was hanged, Roger Casement wrote to a priest from Pentonville Prison. The letter showed a side of the patriot not usually presented to the public, according to the London priest, who sent it to Eamon de Valera.

The Taoiseach presented the original letter subsequently to the National Library. There is a copy in the file just released by the National Archives in Dublin (2000/6/91).

Casement wrote to Father Murnane: "I don't see any papers here - and I don't know anything that has happened since I disappeared last week - I was so overwrought and unbalanced before my trial I hardly knew what I was doing or saying or thinking - often - and lived in a kind of dream or dreadful nightmare half my days.

"I am much better now and happier that that dreadful ordeal is over and am sleeping better than I have done since I was a boy. Before I had all sorts of things on my mind to trouble me - now I have none, and although I am in this cell I feel happier than I have been for a very long time - except when I think of Ireland.

"My last sight of Ireland before the war was Tory Island away in the far north-west; and my last sight of it since the war was that awful two days of Good Friday and Easter Saturday when I was captured and carried off from McKenna's Fort [in Co Kerry] to Dublin . . .

"Sure I am now, that whatever is, is best - except my own follies. Pray for me there most of all, that the wrong done from folly and imprudence may not live long."

Casement found peace in the Catholic Church on the eve of his execution.

"In Protestant coldness I could not find it, but I saw it in the faces of the Irish. Now I know what it was I loved in them. The chivalry of Christ speaking through human eyes."

He had begged his favourite cousin, Gertrude Bannister: "Don't let me lie here in this dreadful place. Take my body back with you and let it lie in the old churchyard in Murlough Bay."

His remains were re-interred in Glasnevin Cemetery in 1965.