Roger Casement’s Long Journey to Ballyheigue

Author: Michael Cronin (Boston College)

Casement's Statue (Image Courtesy of the Author)

Oisín Kelly’s statue commemorating the life of Sir Roger Casement has stood in Ballyheigue, County Kerry, since September 1984. In the same way that Casement’s life and legacy have proved deeply divisive (especially his diaries), so the question of where the Casement statue, originally commissioned in 1967, should be erected also proved problematic.[1] This article will explore why and how the statue was commissioned. It also explores the narrative that surrounds the various attempts to find the completed piece a permanent home. The article argues that commemorative statuary, no matter how apparently uncontroversial the artistic style may be, has to be understood not only through the lens of what is being commemorated but also in the context of contemporary political and moral standpoints. Clearly the impetus for commissioning the statue was the repatriation of Casement’s body to Ireland in 1965 and the need to mark his grave in Glasnevin, but Casement’s life as a humanitarian, nationalist, and martyr was always problematized by his sexuality, which did not sit easily with Catholic Ireland. As Brian Lewis noted, in rationalizing why Casement hasn’t been forgotten and remained contentious, “the irony is that Casement remains a hot topic much less on account of his public acts than because he left behind him a set of diaries describing his promiscuous gay sex life in explicit detail.”[2]

Oisín Kelly’s statue of Casement and its long journey to Ballyheigue fits into a wider history of unwanted statues in Ireland, as well as others elsewhere, especially those dedicated to communist leaders that became problematic after the collapse of the Soviet Union.[3] Equally, the process of the commissioning of the Casement statue, and its long wait for a location echoes the relationship, in the 1980s, between the leadership of the German Democratic Republic and their hesitancy around the issue of political statuary. As Brian Ladd concluded in relationship to that particular case, “Such monuments do not offer clear symbols of a regime’s power. Instead, they offer murky testimony to the compromises—between regime and artists, regime and populace, or different leadership factions—that brought them into being.”[4]

That political and commemorative statues sometimes become contested in how and why they should be located became clear with the Casement statue early on. Kelly completed the piece in 1971, but rather than it being erected in Glasnevin Cemetery, the statue was placed in storage. Four years later, on June 5, 1974, the recently installed Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan was asked in the Dáil what the position was with respect of the Roger Casement statue. Ryan replied to the question by stating, "A statue to be erected on the grave of Roger Casement in Glasnevin Cemetery was completed in 1971 and it will be erected in due course." When quizzed what he meant by the term “in due course” Ryan intimated that the erection of the statue had been stalled by his Fianna Fáil predecessor George Colley by saying that, "there is no problem except that Deputy Colley deliberately decided not to take no decision and referred it to me. The matter has only recently come to my notice." [5] The issue of the statue was indeed one that Ryan had inherited from the previous administration, but the question he was asked was a fair one: when would the statue be erected and would it, as planned, by situated on Casement’s grave in Glasnevin cemetery? The matter was further discussed in Cabinet when Ryan made it clear that the question of the Roger Casement statue had to be addressed, but he also “intimated that the statue should be put in position quietly without attendant ceremony.” [6] The Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, agreed to the suggestion on July 31, 1974.

Despite the desire for a quiet placing of the statue, Richard Stokes of the Taoiseach’s department warned that such a publicity free installation would lend credence to suggestions that Casement was a disgrace because he was gay and that in some way the state was embarrassed or ashamed of the man and his legacy. Stokes also suggested that if the government of the day did not own any state unveiling, Fianna Fáil might exploit Casement’s graveside erection by quietly holding its own dedication ceremony at the graveside.[7] The arguments against a quiet unveiling of the statue and the multitude of readings this could be given held sway, and the matter was quietly dropped.

In the early 1970s, notwithstanding the complexity of any Irish state supported nationalist commemoration of 1916 in the context of the Northern troubles, Casement was a problematic figure. The debate over Casement’s Black Diaries and whether or not they were forgeries was still intense, as were wider debates about his sexuality. In all this Casement was not a straightforward figure to commemorate and celebrate. As Richard Kirkland was able to write as late as 1999, “what more then can be said about a figure whose situation remains provisional and whose legacy (whatever that may prove to be) is yet to be inherited?”[8] For the Irish government of the early 1970s the complexity of Casement’s identity, his historic record and the lack of clarity of what his legacy was, and what he might represent, meant that it was simpler to leave his statue in storage than face the issue head on.

A few years later, on November 9, 1977, page one of the Irish Times included the headline: “Casement Statue: Fianna Fáil’s hands are tied.” The report, penned by the paper’s political correspondent, Dick Walsh, recorded how the Casement statue had been commissioned by the government shortly after Casement’s remains had been returned to Ireland in 1965.[9] The commission was given to the leading sculptor of the time, Oisín Kelly, and the finished work was initially intended to be placed over Casement’s final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery. By the time Kelly had completed designing the sculpture and the piece had been cast in bronze, the summer of 1971, the Northern troubles were in full swing and a political decision was made that the final installation of the piece above the grave might prove an inflammatory act. In 1971 the statue was moved to the Office of Public Works storage yard on Ladd Lane, just off Baggot Street in Dublin. By the time Walsh was writing his piece for the Irish Times the statue had stood in the yard for six years, “a massive and splendidly executed piece, standing twelve feet high, suddenly emerging behind rows of builder’s material and the Italianate remains of a side alter.”[10] Walsh clearly admired the statue and its symbolism and wrote: “the bronze hands are tied as the hands were tied of the prisoner who was led from Banna Strand in April 1916. The head is high as it was when reports on the colonial regimes of the Belgian Congo and the Putamyo held the world’s attention a few years earlier. But dust now lines the creases of monumental bronze and a piece of electric flex around the neck holds the figure steady, as one of the finest pieces of monumental sculpture to have been executed in this country for many years awaits public display.”[11]

The Irish Times piece produced a response from the newspaper’s readers, and a number of letters were printed on the topic. Lt Col Matt Feehan wrote, “I call on all lovers of justice to unite in demanding the prompt erection of this great work of art. May I suggest consideration of the following sites (a) Dun Laoghaire looking north and out to sea; (b) at Dublin’s new bridge, which I hope will be called the Sir Roger Casement Bridge” (the bridge linking Memorial Road to Moss Street was eventually called the Talbot Memorial Bridge after the Dublin temperance campaigner, Matt Talbot).[12] A few days later MM Ireland wrote to the newspaper demanding that the government now “show us that they are not ashamed of our patriot dead and allot to the statue of Roger Casement a prominent position in our capital city, not one in a graveyard or a junk yard.”[13]

In the event, it would take until Sunday September 30, 1984, a full thirteen years since Kelly had cast the final work, and some three years since he had died, until Dick Spring would unveil the statue in its permanent home at Ballyheigue, Co Kerry. Why then did this statue prove so problematic and the question of where it should be located the cause of such inertia and occasional debate? Was the difficulty the sculptor or the sculpture? Was it a battle over which of the competing locations held the greatest claim to Casement’s commemoration cast in bronze? Was it Casement himself and, as Lucy McDiarmid noted “the heady combination of humanitarianism, nationalism and homosexuality” which provoked disquiet about the statue?[14] Or indeed, was it simply a question of timing and the emergence of a protracted struggle in the North which led to Casement (and indeed the whole memory of 1916) to become deeply contested and problematic for a succession of Irish governments?[15]

To begin with Oisín Kelly and the statue.[16] Kelly, born in 1915, studied French and Irish at Trinity, while also taking night classes at the National College of Art. He then went on a scholarship to Frankfurt where he attended the Frankfurt School of Art and developed an interest in twentieth-century German sculpture. Returning from Germany he married Ruth Gywnn, a veterinary and daughter of Trinity Provost EJ Gwynn, and began work as a teacher, finally arriving at St Columba’s, Rathfarnham in 1946, where he would stay for eighteen years. He began carving at the Waterford School of Art in 1944, and spent 1947-8 studying under Henry Moore at Chelsea Polytechnic. He began exhibiting in Ireland in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and became a member of the influential Irish Exhibition of Living Art. He also exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Oireachtas. He was commissioned from 1951 by the Jesuits to create religious images for churches across the country, and became one of the foremost producers of religious art in the country until his death. In 1964, due to the amount of commissions he was taking on, he resigned his teaching post, and took up a part-time position as an artist in residence at the Kilkenny Design Workshops where he was especially noted for his designs of a successful series of high-selling dishcloths. By the mid-1960s he had established himself as the foremost sculptor in the country, and began to be awarded a series of state commissions that related to the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the period of revolution.

These included the Casement statue discussed here, as well as his statue of the Children of Lir in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance (unveiled in 1971) and that of Jim Larkin on O’Connell Street (unveiled in 1980). Other notable public works included Chariot of Life outside the Irish Life Centre on Abbey Street and Two Working Men. This statue was designed for the front of Liberty Hall in Dublin and was commissioned by the IGTWU, but the Paving Department of Dublin City Council refused planning permission for the work as they deemed it a potential obstruction. Like the Casement statue, Two Working Men, which had been completed in 1966, sat in storage for a number of years until Cork County Council gave it a home outside their newly built city offices in 1969. Shortly before his death he was commissioned by Bord na Móna to create a statue of a turf cutter for their headquarters. The work was eventually completed on the basis of Kelly’s designs by John Behan.

Kelly’s career trajectory demonstrates that he was, so far as an artist ever can be, a respected but uncontroversial choice for commissioning bodies such as the Church or the state. As his son Fergus noted, “he liked to work from commission—he preferred that the desire for a work of art should precede its manufacture, and paid great attention to the requirements of his customers.”[17] Kelly was a safe pair of hands, not an artist to give life to controversy. His pieces were largely realist in conception, with his only major interpretive piece being Children of Lir, but even this was figurative realism and based on a traditional artistic interpretation of the Irish legend and poem. With Kelly then, the commissioning party got what they asked for: commemorative realism. Larkin on O’Connell Street is Larkin taken directly from a photograph, his turf cutter and Two Working Men are equally straightforward in their realist depictions of working men and share much with the work of German sculptors who were emerging when he was in Frankfurt namely Josef Thorak and Arno Breker. The Casement statue is also a sculpture that depicts Sir Roger in realist and portraiture terms. The statue is undeniably Casement, there is little or no symbolism, nothing to read or decode. The only feature, the handcuffs, were those as noted by Dick Walsh in the Irish Times in 1977, that he described as “the bronze hands are tied as the hands were tied of the prisoner who was led from Banna Strand in April 1916.”[18] One Ballyheigue history website notes something similar, in that the statue “commemorates an important incident of the 1916 rebellion, when his crew and he failed in their attempt to aid the transfer of arms and ammunition from Germany, and through a bizarre series of rendezvous one wrong ended up on Banna Strand.”[19]  In these comments, and others, there is a retrospective view that is put in place that the statue depicts Casement after his arrest in Kerry. Yet Kelly was commissioned to cast a statue for Casement’s grave in Glasnevin, and as such this piece of work was never conceived as something that would grace the Kerry coast. If we accept that Kelly is someone who worked from photographs, especially here with the absence of a live subject to sit for him, then I would argue that Kelly used the most famous of the very few images of Casement in captivity, namely the newspaper image of him, from the Daily Mirror, being escorted from court during his failed appeal in July 1916.[20] Kelly is using a depiction of Casement in handcuffs, wearing his suit, as the basis for his sculpture. The only correctives in the finished statue are the removal of the hat and Casement standing still, looking square on rather than walking.

In all this, and reinforcing the argument that this is a realist work commissioned for Glasnevin Cemetery (and never conceived for Kerry), Kelly is working as the national sculptor, favored by the state.[21] In the choice of artist, or in the way in which Casement is depicted, there is nothing controversial. As such there is nothing about Casement’s long journey to Ballyheigue that can be ascribed to the artist or the style of the statue.

The places where Casement could have gone, the bidding towns and cities if you like, were Glasnevin Cemetery, Dun Laoighaire, Murlough Bay in Antrim, and Ballyheigue. As mentioned, Glasnevin was the intended home for the statue, and Kelly was commissioned specifically in light of Casement’s reburial there in 1965. However, as the design and casting of the statue took until 1971, the decision was made by the government that the original site was, in the context of the Northern troubles, untenable.[22]

The situation rested for a number of years while the statue itself was stored by the Office of Public Works yard in Ladd Lane. Interest in the statue, and any decision as to where it might go, was reignited in 1978 when the statue featured, on public display for the first time, in a major Kelly retrospective (and oddly his first one-man exhibition) that toured to the Ulster Museum in Belfast, the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin and the Crawford Municipal Gallery in Cork.[23] The exhibition was well received, and the homeless Casement statue became a talking point. Dun Laoighaire town council, citing the fact that Casement was born in the area, initially made the most compelling case for housing the statue. They submitted a plan to the Office of Public Works which envisaged placing the statue at the car ferry terminal. The plan was accepted in principle, and in October 1979 the government confirmed that Dun Laoighaire would be the home for the statue and that the Council would not be charged for it. The then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, stressed his support for the Dun Laoighaire location, and while in office until 1981, and again in 1982, he was always favorable to that location. Despite being given permission by the state to take the Casement statue, the Council then entered into a four year long dispute about where exactly in the town the statue should go. The initial location of the car ferry terminal was dismissed by many as not befitting Casement, while the Harbour Commissioners also expressed concern given plans for updating the whole harbour site.

Casement remained in the OPW yard, by now stored on his side, while Dun Laoighaire dithered. In 1981, the Queen Victoria fountain in Dun Laoighaire was vandalized, allegedly in protest at the treatment of hunger strikers in the Maze Prison. Owen Hammond, a Fianna Fáil councillor, put forward a motion to the town council in January 1982 that the site of the fountain be used for the Casement statue.[24] The motion was defeated 9 votes to 2, and an angry Councillor Hammond berated his fellow councillors by telling them that they “still favoured the retention of a link with Britain, and to them the Royal Borough of Kingstown is still not part of the Irish Republic.”[25] Despite some ongoing support for the idea of bringing Casement to Dun Laoighaire, the failure of the council to agree on a site in the town and to support it with a majority effectively meant the end of the process.

Murlough Bay in Antrim is the place where Casement stated he wished to be buried. He was denied that rite by the British decision to bury him in the grounds of Pentonville Prison after his execution in August 1916. In a letter prior to his execution he categorically expressed a wish to be buried in Murlough Bay, in the Glens of Antrim, and not in Glasnevin, where he was reinterred in 1965. He wrote to Elizabeth Bannister on July 25th, 1916, “Don’t let my body lie here—get me back to the green hill at Murlough, by the McGarry’s house, looking down on the Moyle, that’s where I’d like to be now, and there’s where I’d like to lie.”[26]

In 1928, a stone Celtic cross was erected to Casement in Murlough Bay, by the McCarry family, but over the years it was regularly vandalized by paramilitaries and the B-Specials. This cross, and an empty grave were constructed as Casement’s final resting place in the absence of Casement’s actual body. The cross, as mentioned has largely been destroyed, and the empty grave is now the stage for an annual Republican commemoration. During the 1950s and 1960s Murlough was the place where the Casement Repatriation Committee, the body lobbying to have Casement’s remains returned to Ireland, staged an annual event at the site. Such was its importance that de Valera was regularly in attendance at the annual August commemoration event.[27] While the Murlough claim as the burial place for Casement is the strongest, after all it’s where the man himself said he wanted to go, it was always a non-starter as a venue for the Kelly statue. Whatever the arguments about partition, Murlough is in Northern Ireland, and in the context of strained Anglo-Irish relations through to the 1960s, and the onset of the troubles in 1968, the British were never going to return Casement’s body and allow it to be buried in Murlough. The Casement Repatriation Committee were equally aware of the symbolic challenges created by the geographic location of Murlough over the border, and moved, in 1960 to create a new site for Casement’s body. In August 1960 the Committee laid a marble stone over a plot in Glasnevin Cemetery and while holding on to the hope that Casement could eventually find a resting place in Murlough, presented Glasnevin as a more viable alternative that might be more palatable to the British.[28] By the time that the statue was available for erection in the early 1980s, and so soon after the hunger strikes, there was never a chance that the British would have ever allowed something as powerfully and politically symbolic as a major statue of Casement to be erected on such hallowed ground as his own chosen final resting point.

Which leaves Ballyheigue. The official decision that Ballyheigue would be the permanent home for Kelly’s statue of Casement was made in November 1983. But Casement’s journey from the Office of Public Works storage yard to the Kerry coast began in 1976, when John Walsh of the Ballyheigue Development Company became aware of the statue’s redundancy in Dublin, and he began a campaign to have it situated in the village. Letters were written by various people from the area to officials in the Office of Public Works, to TDs and government ministers, but while Dun Laoighaire had the support of Haughey, little was likely to come of the Kerry requests. Once Haughey was out of office, and Dun Laoighaire council failed to agree a site for the statue, Ballyheigue emerged, almost from nowhere, as the chosen destination for Casement.[29] But why Ballyheigue? Working backwards, its claim is historical and geographical, in that the village is located on Banna Strand where Casement landed. And yet Casement didn’t go to Ballyheigue when he landed on Banna Strand, he was nearer to Ardfert. And by 1984, the area, in the form of the Casement memorial on Banna Strand, had been commemorating Casement since the memorial’s unveiling in 1968. Ballyheigue makes sense in terms of a local campaign, a sitting Tanaiste with local ties, and the general sense that Casement came to Ireland from the sea that he now overlooks (or rather looks away from). Notwithstanding the local enthusiasm for the statue, and the links between Casement and the bay, Ballyheigue’s success is part last man standing. After the troubles had begun, not many places wanted the statue, and few politicians had the stomach for pushing the issue. Dún Laoighaire had a strong hand, but ultimately lost out by not quickly agreeing on a site in the town. In December 1983, the Dún Laoighaire TD, David Andrews, asked the then responsible Minister, Ted Nealon, about the Casement statue. The question was telling in terms of the years that had passed, and how the original plans for the statue to go to Glasnevin had long been forgotten. Andrews asked, "if he [the Minister] is aware that a statue of Roger Casement specifically commissioned for the Borough of Dún Laoghaire is no longer intended to be located there; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”[30]

Notwithstanding the fact that the statue had never been commissioned for Dún Laoghaire, Nealon gave his answer and the statue was finally given a home: “It is proposed to erect the statue of Roger Casement, sculpted by Óisín Kelly, in Ballyheigue, County Kerry.”[31]

Once selected as the venue for the statue, it was decided that there would be an unveiling at Ballyheigue that would be carried out by local TD and Tainaiste, Dick Spring. The unveiling was controversial because of the events that surrounded it. The unveiling took place shortly after Irish naval vessels had intercepted the Marita Ann and her cargo of armaments—destined for the IRA—off the Kerry coast on September 28, 1984. The boat was carrying ten tons of armaments and was one of the most audacious attempts to land weapons in Ireland since Casement had tried in 1916.[32]

As a result of the capture of the Marita Ann and the arrest of well-known Kerry IRA man, Martin Ferris, tensions were high in the area, and the possibility of cancelling the unveiling of the stature was even considered. In the event a number of protesters were in attendance when Dick Spring spoke, and according to newspaper reports, “a group of about 12 people chanted traitor and waved black flags as Mr Spring made his unveiling speech. Placards reading “1916 The Aud – 1984 Marita Ann, what has changed?” were raised.”[33] In his speech, Spring rejected that there were any similarities between Casement’s attempt to land arms in 1916 and the actions of the Marita Ann, arguing that “in 1916 the vast majority of people in this country gave a validity to what was happening, but that is not the case in 1984 when they have rejected violence.”[34] What is most striking about the timing of the statue unveiling and the Marita Ann incident is the incredible ability of Casement, as a man, a symbol, and in this case a statue, to attract controversy and attention across the years and in multiple settings. Here is a statue which the state rejected as unusable in the 1970s, which had lain unloved and largely unwanted for years, and yet the very week that it comes to be unveiled, the IRA attempts to land a large arms shipment in the manner of Casement. It matters not that Dick Spring attempts to separate the two actions, in reality it becomes another fascinating piece of the oddly strange story of Roger Casement and his complex legacy.

This article has assessed why a straightforward realist statue, commissioned by the state as part of the wider celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, proved so unpalatable by the time of its completion in 1971. It is clear that the symbolism of Kelly’s statue wasn’t a problem, but rather the complexity of Casement as an individual and the specter of any public unveiling against the backdrop of war in the North of Ireland made any public erection of the statue political unpalatable. Oisín Kelly always believed that the original site for the sculpture was the correct one, but understood well that the unveiling could not be a public spectacle. In the early 1970s both the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael/Labour governments seemed hesitant to oversee the public unveiling of the statue, with Casement’s sexuality, the Northern situation, and also the fear of one or other party gaining political capital by championing the dead patriot all advanced as reasons for leaving Kelly’s work in storage. In the same way in which Queen Victoria’s statue was moved from outside Leinster House in 1948, to lie in storage until presented to the city of Sydney in 1987, so Casement was stored until a site, far away from what had been intended by the commissioning body and the sculptor, was found in Kerry.

Statues, whether they be of British royals or dead patriots are not fixed and permanently site specific. Political changes moved on Queen Victoria in the 1940s as an Irish parliament could not have a British monarch sitting outside. Casement was left with no place to go in 1971 because the political situation in the North of Ireland changed so rapidly. And in a similar but more recent vein, the Father Mathew statue that has been located on Dublin’s O’Connell Street since 1891 will shortly be relocated (as the Anna Livia monument was moved before him to make way for the Spire) elsewhere in the city to make way for the extension to the LUAS tram line. Statues then are flexible and contested symbols that can never be considered permanent or fixed to the intentions and designs of the sculptor. Realities and circumstances can change in the years after the initial commission and statues will not necessarily reside (or even be wanted) where they were intended for. The end result in this scenario for Casement was that his statue remained placeless after completion in 1971 until it was situated in Ballyheigue in 1984. The wait for the Kelly statue to see the light of day speaks to the problematic legacy of Casement within Irish social and political life, and also the long shadow cast over representations of nationalism (such as the dead of 1916) in the Irish Republic given the post-1968 conflict in Northern Ireland.


[1] See Angus Mitchell, Casement (London: Haus Publishing, 2003) and Jeffrey Dudgeon, Roger Casement: The Black Diaries: With a Study of His Background, Sexuality and Irish Political Life (Belfast: Belfast Press, 2002).

[2] Brian Lewis, “The Queer Life and Afterlife of Roger Casement,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, no. 14 (2005): 364.

[3] For the Irish case see: Yvonne Whelan, Reinventing Modern Dublin: Streetscape, Iconography and the Politics of Identity (Dublin: UCD Press, 2003); Micheál Ó Rian, “Queen Victoria and Her Reign at Leinster House,” Dublin Historical Record, 52 (1999): 75-86; and David Limond, “[Re]Moving statues,” History Ireland, no. 18 (2010): 10-11. Many unwanted former communist statues have been gathered together in a single place, namely Fallen Monument Park in Moscow, Memento Park in Budapest, and Grūtas Park in Lithuania. 

[4] Brian Ladd, “East Berlin Political Monuments in the Late German Democratic Republic: Finding a Place for Marx and Engels,” Journal of Contemporary History, 37 (2002): 104.

[5] Dail Questions, Dáil Éireann Debate, June, 5 1974, no. 4.

[6] T. Ryle Dwyer, “State Papers 1977—Casement’s statue eventually unveiled,” Irish Examiner, December 27, 2007.

[7] Dwyer, “State Papers 1977.”

[8] Richard Kirkland, “Rhetoric and (Mis)recognitions: Reading Casement,” Irish Studies Review, no. 7 (1999): 171.

[9] The return of Casement’s remains to Ireland was part of inter-governmental discussions between Britain and Ireland in the run up to the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The relevant government files are instructive for understanding the negotiations and actual process, “Sir Roger Casement: repatriation of remains and reburial in Ireland” (NAI, 2009/135/25), and see also Kevin Grant, “Bones of Contention: The Repatriation of the Remains of Roger Casement,” Journal of British Studies, no. 41 (July 2002): 329-353. More generally on the significance of dead bodies such as those of Casement, see Katherine Vedery, The Political Lives of Dead: Reburial and Postsocilaist Change, (New York: Columbia, 1999).

[10] Dick Walsh, “Casement’s Statute: FF’s Hands are Tied,” The Irish Times, Nov. 9, 1977, 1.

[11] Irish Times, November 9, 1977, 1.

[12] Irish Times, November 12, 1977, 12.

[13] Irish Times, November 14, 1977, 11.

[14] Lucy McDiarmid, The Irish Art of Controversy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005)

[15] Contentious debate over the style and situation of memorial sculptures in Ireland was nothing new, as the various debates over World War One and Irish revolutionary memorials from the 1920s clearly illustrates. See John Turpin, “Monumental Commemoration and the Fallen in Ireland, North and South, 1920-60,” New Hibernia Review, 11 (2007): 107-119.

[16] Oisin Kelly awaits a full-length study, and surprisingly little has been written about him and his work. The best overview is Fergus Kelly, “The Life and Work of Oisin Kelly,” Irish Arts Review (1989/1990): 35-8.

[17] Kelly, “The Life and Work of Oisin Kelly,” 38.

[18] Walsh, “Casement Statue,” 1.

[20] For the Daily Mirror image see National Library of Ireland, The 1916 Rising: Personalities and Perspectives, online exhibition, accessed May 10, 2014,

[21] In terms of his place as the leading realist sculpture of the late 1960s, Kelly’s position is analogous to that of Paul Henry in the years either side of the Irish revolution, see SB Kennedy, “An Enduring View of Irish Identity: Paul Henry and the Realism of Fiction,” Irish Arts Review Yearbook, 15 (1999): 98-107.

[22] As late as May 1972 Sean Lemass told the Dáil that the statue, which had cost the state £2,494, would be unveiled before the end of that year, but this was the last public mention of the statue for a number of years. See Irish Independent, May 17, 1972.

[23] The catalogue for the exhibition was written by Oisín Kelly, The Work of Oisín Kelly, sculptor: A Retrospective Exhibition (Dublin: Arts Council of Ireland, 1978).

[24] The plan to use the plinth of what had been the Queen Victoria statue for Casement was supported by the Kilmainham Gaol trustees. See Irish Independent, April 20, 1981.

[25] Irish Independent, January 22, 1982.

[26] Roger Casement, Letter to Elizabeth Bannister, July 25, 1916, Roger Casement Papers (2012 Release), 1882-1934, accessed May 10, 2014

[27] See Grant, “Bones of Contention,” 343-5 for details of the annual Murlough event.

[28] See Grant, “Bones of Contention,” 349 for details of the switch to Glasnevin as a potential resting place for Casement.

[29] For the background to the Kerry campaign see Kerryman, November 4, 1983.

[30] See House of Oireachtas, “Ceisteanna—Question. Oral Answers. – Roger Casement Statue, Dáil Éireann Debate, 346, no. 6, December 6, 1983,

[31] Ibid.

[32] Irish Independent, October 1, 1984.

[33] Irish Independent, October 1, 1984.

[34] Kerryman, October 5, 1984.