A number of things have drawn me to Casement as a resource for imagining a hospitable national body. Of course, his is a scandalously hospitable, permeable body. It is also constantly mobile. He never had a permanent home but was always in transit, a choreography that was necessary, perhaps, for someone who wouldn’t settle in the patterns of the nuclear family. When he was tried, he was described as being of no fixed abode. His diaries detail how he even managed a day-trip from London to Dublin and back again, the kind of trip that cheap air travel has made possible for some of us, but which was much more of a feat a hundred years ago.
He is also important to me because of how he connects nationalism to international justice. So he reminds me that we cannot think of a flourishing national body without taking in to account our responsibilities to those who are beyond our national borders. But then he also reminds us that borders are fluid. Born a Protestant, dying a Catholic, British knight, Irish revolutionary, part of the establishment and simultaneous criminal. Incidentally the same law that criminalised his homosexuality was in force in Ireland until 1993, the year I started training as a dancer.
Casement was also sensitive to bodies, to the length and heft and beauty of men he desired, but also to the suffering of abused bodies in Africa and the Amazon or to the under-nourished bodies he saw in the West of Ireland. This sensitivity to bodies is not a part of the 1916 legacy that I was taught growing up in Ireland and in this moment of centenary commemoration, in Ireland and in the UK, I want to communicate the value of a deeper understanding of bodies, of their diversity and of their potential, so that we can imagine and embody the kind of choreography in which we’d all like to dance.
Fearghus Ó Conchúir