Roger Casement: Butterflies and Bones review: blood and thunder

Secrets Of The Black Diaries...Picture Shows: Image order No HK6737 Irish Patriot and British Consular Official Sir Roger Casement (1864 - 1916) is escorted to the gallows of Pentonville Prison, London. TX: BBC FOUR Friday, March 15 2002 Getty Images/Hulton Archives Roger Casement, former British Consul to the Congo, was hanged for treason for his role in Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising. His conviction rested on a set of diaries that suggested he had pursued a highly promiscuous homosexual life. Under the social mores of the day, such a revelation deprived him of all hope of clemency. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four investigates the 85-year-old mystery. WARNING: This Getty Image copyright image may be used only to publicise 'Secrets Of The Black Diaries'. Any other use whatsoever without specific prior approval from 'Getty Images' may result in legal action.

Secrets Of The Black Diaries…Picture Shows: Image order No HK6737 Irish Patriot and British Consular Official Sir Roger Casement (1864 – 1916) is escorted to the gallows of Pentonville Prison, London.
TX: BBC FOUR Friday, March 15 2002
Getty Images/Hulton Archives
Roger Casement, former British Consul to the Congo, was hanged for treason for his role in Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising. His conviction rested on a set of diaries that suggested he had pursued a highly promiscuous homosexual life. Under the social mores of the day, such a revelation deprived him of all hope of clemency. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four investigates the 85-year-old mystery.
WARNING: This Getty Image copyright image may be used only to publicise ‘Secrets Of The Black Diaries’. Any other use whatsoever without specific prior approval from ‘Getty Images’ may result in legal action.

If you’ve never heard of Roger Casement, who was executed by the British for treason 100 years ago today, the reason is as simple as it is sad, he was homosexual. For that reason he was ignored when he was not being written out of our revolutionary history.

Jeffrey Dudgeon, MBE has written two wonderful insightful books into Casement,


Aidan Lonergan has written that there are ten things we don’t know about Casement:

  1. His Antrim father fought in Afghanistan
  2. His Anglican mother secretly baptised him as a Catholic
  3. He was looked after by the people of Antrim after his parents died
  4. He exposed one of the bloodiest colonial regimes ever
  5. What he saw changed him
  6. He sought German backing for an Irish rebellion during WWI
  7. Some see him as a gay icon
  8. Arthur Conan Doyle campaigned against his sentence
  9. He converted to Catholicism on the day of his execution
  10. A hundred years on from the Easter Rising, it’s important to remember Casement

However, as with all history, it is open to interpretation, and I know that different camps will have different feelings towards Casement, his impact on Irish history, and on Gay History.

The musical about him was one such attempt, and I hope that if it comes to a theatre near you, you will make an effort to see it and view it through the eyes of someone who is probably far older than he was, and also who has the benefit of a society that is beginning to be accepting of LGBT people.


Roger Casement is (again) centre stage, but this time it’s the dance world that’s exploring the many facets of his life

Source: Butterflies and Bones review: blood and thunder

Irish artist plasters gay lovers on Dublin building to support country’s marriage equality referendum


* North and South America Rights Only *

* North and South America Rights Only *
PreviousNext* North and South America Rights Only * Irish artist Joe Caslin and a crew installed the mural overnight Sunday on a busy street in Dublin as a message for Ireland’s upcoming marriage equality referendum. Enlarge
An image of two men embracing, plastered on the side of a Dublin building, is the work of an Irish artist one month before Ireland puts marriage equality to a vote.

The touching black and white homage takes up at least four stories in Dublin as a “poignant representation of same sex love in the city,” its artist, Joe Caslin, told the Journal.

Its new presence has couples flocking to the busy street below for selfies.

The country’s marriage equality referendum is the only one of its kind in the world. It asks voters to decide whether same-sex couples can marry.

While the same-sex marriage battle in the U.S. will rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in late June, Ireland’s case will be decided by voters on May 22.

The Irish referendum would add a clause to the country’s constitution that allows marriage to be contracted by two people “without distinction as to their sex.”

Caslin’s work, reportedly inspired by a 1864 painting “The Meeting on the Turret Stairs,” went up overnight Sunday with a crew working in the rain.

He expects additional urban LGBT art to pop up around the country’s capital including a mural paying tribute to a lesbian relationship.

Book Review: The Journey Home

The Journey Home


By Dermot Bolger





The Journey Home by Dermot Bolger is an exceptional novel from one of Ireland’s leading contemporary writers.  The author, with the release of this title, has been recently nominated for the Irish literature prize in the Irish Times/Aer Lingus awards.

One can immediately see why.

Mr Bolger, to coin a phrase, is a master of modern-day grotesquery in that he portrays a horribly vivid picture of Dublin life as seen through the eyes of his principal characters: Hano, Shay and Katie.

The former enjoys too much lavish drunken debauchery with is soulmate Shay; whilst the latter has a sordid past of solvent abuse and robbery.

Briefly, Hano meets Shay whilst working in an electoral office; the two begin drinking heavily together and become best friends. Hano gradually places Shay on a pedestal. The latter moves to the continent, returns, and is eventually murdered by Hano’s ex-boss: the shady (homosexual) Patrick Plunkett (extortionist extraordinaire).  In revenge, Hano murders Plunkett and goes on the run with the outcast and social victim Katie.

Behind all this marvellous maundering is a background of drug abuse, homelessness, prostitution, alcoholism, corruption rape, destruction of innocence, death, and street-fighting (PHEW!).  The whole structure of the novel would make Dickens envious.

Bolger is incontrovertibly a craftsman. Structurally The Journey Home is a delight to behold; for the author incorporates flashback/memory with the present; and manages to restrict the story’s time-span to four days (Sunday to Wednesday).  Further to this his seemingly “out-of-place” passages (in italics) give his work a strong cinematic quality.

Moreover, the characters portrayed in the book are extremely lifelike.  It seems that very few authors around today could mould such moral deviants; such villainous, putrescent scum; as does Dermot Bolger.  I actually sat down after reading this little gem of skulduggery and imagined what type of life, and what kind of people the writer in question has had the misfortune to have known.  The Plunkett brothers are nasty pieces of work.  Patrick is a high-powered sexual deviant; Pascal is a corruptible junior minister. The two, in my opinion, would have battled well against the Kray twins.

The whole tone of the book is one of no hope as the narrator (Hano) struggles with his guilt.  Indeed, this novel could be very easily compared to Jean-Paul Sartre.  It has an essentially existentialist outlook and moves often from one morose setting to the next:

…”But always the fun was jolted out of the night by the interruption of the journey.  We’d sit on the floor around an electric fire, opening six-packs and trying to get back into the happy ambience of the pub.  But slowly the conversation froze back into the endless dissection of work and promotion, character assassination and grudges”…

The book carries on in this vein incessantly.  It can make reading somewhat arduous at times; sometimes strangely interesting at others.

One essential point to note about the Journey Home is that it can shock quite easily.  I issue this very serious warning:  DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PURCHASE THIS NOVEL IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED.  For within this work there are numerous passages of gratuitous violence; bad language; and explicit sex scenes (including a homosexual rape scene).  On the other hand, if you are open-minded these passages are a riveting read:  for they practically drip realism onto the page.  They are also arguably essential to the plot in that they aid the reader to visualise the harsh realities that the author is trying to convey.  Indeed, the author attains his goals in this respect with consummate ease.

The Journey Home, surprisingly, is a refreshing, rather than a depressing work.  It can serve as a lesson to us all on how to avoid the evils of modern society.  The book’s greatest attribute is it’s commentary on the destruction of innocence, and collapse of society (Hano’s family being the prime example of this).

One really wonders if the author leaves us with any hope of salvation from the sordid state that Dublin, and, more importantly, the characters within this novel have got themselves into.  Is It is really their fault thought?……we can only speculate.

Overall, this is a book that will no doubt have you completely enthralled from the moment you pick it up until you put it down.  I strongly recommend its purchase, despite the fact that I previously thought that I disliked this genre.

The Journey Home is worthwhile: not only is it thoroughly entertaining, but it will no doubt stand the test of time as a social commentary.  Just like Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier it is vastly ahead of its time.  The novel has something in it for everyone; and the discerning reader will find it hard not to see it for it’s true worth.

Granted, I didn’t come away from reading it with a sense of catharsis – but I was pleased to discover that my initial perceptions of the book were wholly unfounded.

At its current price it is at least worth considerable consideration.



Me? …..well, I’m going to buy another one of Bolger’s books!


Mark McCormack

The 2nd All-Ireland Gay Conference 1982

(Out-take from Gay Star No. 9 (Nov. 1982))

… and still the niffy Liffey flows…

Pride FlagThe following impression of the Dublin conference is partial, pig-headed, probably egomaniacal and, I hope, accurate and entertaining.

I arrived at the Conference venue – the Junior Common Room of Trinity College, Dublin, at ten o’clock or thereabouts, on Saturday morning.  Having parted with my registration fee, I nipped into a biggish room and borrowed a corner of the Derry community bookshop Bookworm‘s table to lay out my wares. They were two editions of your favourite organ and some of the Ayatollah posters.

Almost immediately, two people swept down and said that the posters were racist.  “How do you mean?” sez I.  “It’s got slant eyes” sez they.  “Aye”, sez I, “but they slant downwards!”  This confused both parties, and my interlocutors went off muttering about the Steering Committee disapproving of the poster.  So did Ian Paisley — odd auld world isn’t it?

The first Workshop I sat-in on was Coming Out / Personal Liberation.  If you are interested, I was accused of being racist, again, by a person who persistently used the scientifically neutral term “Brit”.  We didn’t really get beyond the ‘Coming Out’ stage in this Workshop, due to the fact that most of us hadn’t, but mainly because of the small number of women in our group [making it unrepresentative – upstart 2013].  One man had had the odd experience of discovering his Gayness in the Curragh Prison Camp.  We broke for socialising and a snack – freebie tea / coffee and nibbles, and also very tasty veggie meals supplied by a pleasant couple and (one assumes) their child.  It is unusual to find Dublin whole-foody types with smiles on their faces.  They take the British Road – “I am sour, therefore, I am serious”.  Belfast is more American – people seem to like displaying their (very healthy) teeth.

The next Workshop was Gays in a Patriarchal Society.  This became largely a conversation between the Dublin Gay Collective and some Gays from Manchester, with sensible comments from some (largely independent) women. Some of the Dublin men were very sharp in their criticism of Gay male pornography, as part of capitalist, and therefore patriarchal, society – it was no different from pornography featuring women.  The Mancunians said that Gay (male) porn is not intrinsically oppressive of the Gay men on either side of the camera, one of them defended ‘cottaging’.

In opposition to this a DGC spokesperson said that he did not even accept the definition “man” anymore, and that he rejected phallic, capitalist society with its sexploitation and its emphasis that sex (in men) equals ejaculation.  Then he said that we should solidarise with the Republican Movement and the IRA.  Is it political axe-grinding to point out that guns could hardly be more phallic?

I tried to make the point, against the same person’s contempt for both ‘camp’ and ‘macho’ men that these stereotypes are at least an attempt to create a niche for Gay man.  I did, and still do, emphasise the creative element of the construction of these stereotypes.  And, no matter how unpalatable it is to some of us, capitalism is generally a progressive factor in the – short-term – liberation of Gays.  Gay USA may be appalling, but at least it is open, up-front and brazen.  Gay USSR or Gay PRC (People’s Republic of China) are unknown factors.

Sharon from Belfast made the point that women are, to a very great extent, entrenched in their mother / homemaker roles, and that a new consciousness has to be created before we can talk of drastic changes in society.  Most of the women in the Workshop rejected the idea of joining the standard political parties.  I detected a note of condescension towards people who were not “politically aware”.  Some men innocently made fairly crass remarks about women and their role in society.  But they were there, and appeared willing to learn.


Through the fireplace

The next event after a wee break (incidentally, to get from the JCR to the dining / socialising area, one had to duck through what had been a fireplace – it was a bizarre, Lewis Carrollian sensation) was billed as Gays and the Media.  Again, this was pitched high, as the Dublin radicals said that all bourgeois media were anti-Gay.  The Mancunians again took up the issue, and pointed out that they had used local radio to good effect.  So, also, I thought, had IGRM (the Irish Gay Rights Move-ment), but apparently this wasn’t Kosher, so to speak.  The question of [London] Gay News was raised, and a broad front to oppose its banning [in ‘Éire’] was mooted – this appears not to have got off the ground.  An Irish Gay News journal was discussed, and no conclusion was come to; it will inevitably be the organ of the Dublin Gay Collective, which is the biggest of the various Collectives.

This Workshop struck me as being largely a matter of craw thumping on the part of the radicals, against the “big two” (southern Gay groups – NGF and IGRM) and against the media in general.

At the end we all adjourned for tea / coffee, then EVERYONE rushed out to watch videos of Bette Midler doing her wonderfully, off-colour, ideologically unsound stuff.  This left two people in the dining area – both “bureaucrats” one from NIGRA and one from NGF.  The NGF apparatchik had a brush in his hand, and busied himself sweeping up.  Your own NIGRA Orgman offered to help, and being politely refused, wondered off feeling pretty redundant.

At four o’clock the next morning I found my host.  I doubt if any other city should show such “cool” in the face of an appalling guest. Just think what you would do in Belfast or Derry if a loony rang your doorbell at that time.

The first session on Sunday was Gays at Work / In the Trade Unions.  I sneaked off to Roy Holmes’s piano recital at the Hugh Lane Gallery (Parnell Square North).  It was a demonstration of how capitalism enforces its basic ideas.  There is no entry fee for these recitals (this was Roy Holmes’s first – in Dublin) and so you had children and tourists milling about making noise.  The audience were without a doubt the worst behaved I have ever sat among, his playing was wonderfully apt in Fauré and Mozart, but he isn’t heavy-handed or humourless enough for Liszt.  He may as well have been telling dirty jokes to banjo accompaniment, for all the interest it evoked at the back of the hall.  It had not been paid for – therefore it could not be good.


Historical cottages

Back at the talk-in we were told that a picnic was to be held “on College Green”.  As nobody bothered to tell me where this place was I wandered off to St. Stephen’s Green.  And, of course, feeling silly wandered back almost immediately.  Then we got down to something called Structures for Development.  This displayed an alarming gap between the radicals and ordinary Gays.  There was anger, to the point of shrillness, with NGF (the National Gay Federation) and IGRM over the Charles Self affair.  NIGRA was quite sharply criticised for the handling of the Kincora affair — but nobody actually suggested anything concrete.

I was shaken by the lack of historical perspective shown by some people here.  Ten years ago Gay Ireland lived in the shadows and conducted its affairs in a very few grotty pubs and grottier public conveniences.  The Dublin and Cork Gay Collectives struck me as incubating yet another ‘Bureaucratic Org’.

This developed into a Closing Session, which I had to leave early, and at which, mysteriously, NIGRA was accused of excluding women from the Carpenter Centre.

Seán McGouran


The last few lines should be explained.  It was a trap that should have been sprung earlier.  At which point I could have explained as follows: NIGRA put all its money (£2000) into the Carpenter Club as an investment.  We hoped the (purely commercial) venture would devolve into a Gay Centre – it did, as a matter of fact.  But the main investor decided he was opposed to ‘politics’.  He bought out Jeff Dudgeon, and made life problematical for NIGRA – claiming that a further £2000 investment (the four grand was given to NIGRA by Thatcher’s government as a consequence of the Dudgeon Strasbourg case) – had been ‘a loan’.  NIGRA did not ‘own’ a brick of the building that probably cost at a minimum hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The people making these accusations were not kids from the Falls or Shankill Roads but members of the property-owning class.  It all grew out of a refusal by Jeff to allow the venue to be used at no rental for a women-only disco.  That was because it was leaching money – and a disco was opened in a plush hotel doing his enterprise down.  Some things then happened simultaneously – the major investor vanished.  The staff then purged the low-life he had allowed in.  And the rival establishment’s defects became more apparent.  A main one being their greed.  They had no overhead costs and the hotel made a mint from the bar – on a night when it would otherwise have been bolted and barred.  But they charged more than the Carpenter did.  And punters had to use taxis to get there, and back home.

So far as the women’s disco is concerned, Jeff probably made the wrong decision – but bad luck begets bad luck.  A short-term loss might have encouraged more customers over time.  It meant that some women – but hardly the regular disco-going ones – avoided the place.  It meant that when the place closed they were, to an extent, embarrassed when it became obvious who was the owner.  It is not a sensation that endears most people to an organisation.  NIGRA remained in the doghouse.

Some years after the above Conference (of three – the grisly truth about the 3rd will be recounted another time) the ‘radicals’ involved themselves in AIDS-work.  That was very worthy and useful.  It also opened their eyes to reality.  The first things anyone ‘on the scene’ asks is along the lines of ‘Who the fuck are you?’, whether it is begging for money for good causes, selling a paper, or simply asking for information.

(That is not entirely accurate, in Belfast we had established our credentials and could take some risks, in carrying out surveys, issuing questionnaires – though as the commercial ‘scene’ developed it got more problematical.  One proprietor jibbed at condoms and safe-sex information being handed out at his disco.  Though he didn’t argue with the notion that the punters were there to find sex-partners.  We had to stand well away from one of the pubs to do the same, or to distribute a free-sheet, upstart mostly.)