26 September 2002 Edition
The Flawed McCormack Tests
Bill McCormack is a forgery denialist and his book is just another attempt to discredit one of the most creditable figures in republican history, writes JACK MOYLETT.
A press conference was held in Deptford Town Hall London, on 12 March last, to publicise (itals)The Giles Report(itals), which attempted to authenticate the forged Casement diaries.
Bill McCormack, advised by a steering committee headed by Mary E. Daly, commissioned it. McCormack also used the event to launch his new book on the Casement controversy.
The Giles Report sometimes referred to as The McCormack Tests had been heralded in the Media as the definitive forensic examination of the forged Casement diaries. On reading, it became obvious that Dr Audrey Giles had based her rather subjective conclusions on hurried hand writing comparisons, which is not surprising since the initial proposition she had been set, by the steering committee, was "that the documents at Kew known collectively as Roger Casement's Black Diaries are genuinely written in his own hand throughout ". This is not unlike a committee of butchers setting the proposition that vegetarianism is bad for the digestive system.
At a subsequent Casement Colloquium held in Goldsmiths College London, also organised by Bill McCormack, the forensic scientist James J Horan (John J. College of Criminal Justice, New York) had been invited to give his analysis of the report. His paper was a revelation. He said and I quote, "Dr Giles' report as it now stands would not be accepted in the Courts in America". He disagreed with Dr. Giles' conclusions regarding her handwriting comparisons, as did other handwriting experts present. He went on to explain that the tests on ink and pencil writing, which were not carried out by Dr. Giles (her reason being that they were destructive and anyway too many different inks were used), could in effect be done using modern techniques.
He referred to Raman Spectroscopy, for instance, as being today considered a non-destructive test. He suggested that eventually analysis of the inks and pencils will solve the controversy. One of the questions he asked was, "Why was the 1911 Letts Diary the only one rebound, when it is the newest one and why is there one page of it still loose?" He also said, and again I quote, "As an editor of the Journal of Forensic Science, as the report stands now I'm afraid I would not recommend that it be published".
During the Alfred Dreyfus and Charles Stuart Parnell controversies, many eminent handwriting experts authenticated documents, which were later revealed as forgeries. The gallant Alfred Dreyfus had been found guilty and sentenced to Devil's Island before the forgery was discovered.
The ability of forgery denialists to ignore everything that does not fit their assumptions never ceases to amaze me. Eoin O Maille's textual analysis research, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Casement did not write the Black Diaries, is dismissed, as are a myriad of mistakes, i.e.: Casement observed a lunar eclipse on the evening 16 November 1910 and described it, as well as detailing times, in his genuine diary. He is correct to within 5 minutes. However, the description of the same event in the Black Diary entry is an impossibility. The contending diary entries agree that total eclipse took place at 8pm. However, the Black Diarist wrote, "Eclipse of the Moon, just as it rose at 6 - half covered. Became total eclipse at 8". The duration of the eclipse, from partial eclipse to full eclipse was 96 minutes; therefore it could not have been half covered at 6 p.m.
The handwriting in the Black Diaries is so varied and unlike Casement's, that one is in awe of the blindness of forgery denialists.
The contradictions by the pushers of the disputed documents as to when, where and how they were found are also conveniently ignored. Basil Thompson (Assistant Chief Constable, Met. Police and Head of Special Branch), one of Casement's interrogators, actually gave five different accounts of how they came into his possession and as late as Nov 1931 described them as "two thin volumes of foolscap paper".
Why do they also ignore the fact that Casement was witness to and blew the whistle on crimes against humanity so horrendous that they made him physically sick, crimes committed in the name of Western Christian expansionism, committed, I might add, by every great European power, Monarchy and Republic alike, whose foot soldiers comprised every nation race and creed, including our own?
There is no high moral ground here. More and more people from all walks of life realise that what happened was very, very wrong and in their own way are raising their voices and saying like Casement, stop, enough already.
The night before his judicial murder he wrote, "These artificial and unnatural wars prompted by greed of power are the source of all misery now destroying mankind".
Bill McCormack is a forgery denialists, and his book is just an attempt to discredit Dr William Maloney who in 1936 exposed the forgery in a brilliant and balanced work entitled "The Forged Casement Diaries" (Talbot Press). McCormack writes in a kind of journalese, features-article style and is also oddly anti-Irish and anti-Roman Catholic. In McCormack's world anything Irish, Republican, Nationalist or Roman Catholic is bad and everything Protestant and British is good.
No need to buy it, you have heard it all before, in one form or another, same old recycled guff, which has been spinning, alas, for a long time now. In fact, if there was an original idea in the whole sorry thing, it would die of loneliness.
This apt quote from Captain Robert Monteith, Casement's colleague and friend, sums it up:
"The English Empire may have been founded by bayonets, but it is maintained, in a great measure, by those who write of its glories or by those who write in derision of men and women who challenge its power".
Is it not reasonable to ask that the Giles Report be withdrawn pending further investigation?
Jack Moylett will be speaking along with others at the Sixth Annual Roger Casement Symposium in Dublin on Saturday (28 September). Admission is free and the syposium will include a mixture of lectures, film, poetry and song.