Friday, August 04, 2006

Two Anniversaries-Cook and Casement

Yesterday was a strange co-incidence of two anniversaries of humanitarians, whose lives have some funny overlaps. My Dad travelled to Banna Strand, in his own native parish in North Kerry to take part in the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the execution of Sir Roger Casement. An intersting character, who devoted his life to the emancipation of oppressed peoples in British colonies, he ended his life in the cause of Irish freedom in a somewhat chaotic attempt to recruit Irish POW's in Germany to assist in the 1916 Rising. Finally he managed to presuade the Germans to send an arms shipment to Tralee on board the ill-fated Aud, only to fail to make contact with the local volunteers. Having landed himself, he was duly arrested, with major questions remaining about the failure of the local volunteers to free him. He then became the epitome of the British traitor, being executed for treason, but not before his reputation was destroyed by the famous 'Black Diaries', which insinuated that he was gay, then a fate almost as bad as death. He remains however a much admired figure in Ireland.

Sir Robin Cook, another man with a huge commitment to International justice died a year ago yesterday, with many of his compatriots also considering him a traitor as a result of his principled resignation as Foreign Secretary because of his opposition to British participation in the Iraq war. Like Casement, he was also dogged by sexual scandal, albeit of a heterosexual nature. He was also, as the 2004 Labour Party Conference showed hugely admired for his principled stand by Irish socialists. Click here to see the Labour Party's (and my own) web tribute to Robin. I was fortunate to have met Cook, and can only reflect today on how different our lives might be if both Cook and Casement had succeeded in winning the debates of their day. Ar Dheis Dé go raibh an beirt laoch seo.

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