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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell

daniel-oconnellDaniel O’Connell, Irish political leader often referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator, is born on August 6, 1775, at Carhan near Cahersiveen, County Kerry, to the O’Connells of Derrynane, a once-wealthy Roman Catholic family, that has been dispossessed of its lands.

Raised by his uncle, Daniel learns the Irish language and Irish lore in Kerry. O’Connell does part of his schooling in France during the revolution. On May 19, 1798, O’Connell is called to the Irish Bar and becomes a barrister. Four days later, the United Irishmen stage their rebellion which is put down by the British with great bloodshed. O’Connell does not support the rebellion. He believes that the Irish need to assert themselves politically rather than by force. The violent excesses he witnesses in France, the slaughter of the 1798 Rising, and finally his own killing of a man in a duel in 1815 leads him to renounce violence forever.

Moving into politics, O’Connell founds the Catholic Association in 1823, creating one of the first massive political movements in Europe or the Americas. The Catholic Association embraces other aims to better Irish Catholics, such as electoral reform, reform of the Church of Ireland, tenants’ rights, and economic development.

When he is elected to Parliament in 1828, he is unable to take his seat as members of parliament have to take the Oath of Supremacy, which is incompatible with Catholicism.  Fear of the reaction of his millions of followers leads to the passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. O’Connell works for Home Rule for Ireland for the rest of his days but never achieves it. The British ban his mass Repeal of the Union rallies in 1843 and jail him for a time. The movement loses momentum at that point and the long years of hard work wear “The Liberator” down.

O’Connell dies at the age of 71 of cerebral softening on May15, 1847, in Genoa, Italy, while on a pilgrimage to Rome. His time in prison seriously weakens him and the appallingly cold weather he has to endure on his journey is likely the final blow. According to his dying wish, his heart is buried in Rome at Sant’Agata dei Goti, then the chapel of the Irish College, and the remainder of his body in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, beneath a round tower.


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Death of Daniel O’Connell in Genoa, Italy

daniel-oconnellDaniel O’Connell, lawyer who becomes the first great 19th-century Irish nationalist leader and is known as “The Liberator,” dies in Genoa, Italy on May 15, 1847. Throughout his life, he campaigns for Catholic emancipation, including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament and the repeal of the Act of Union which combines Great Britain and Ireland.

Compelled to leave the Roman Catholic college at Douai, France, when the French Revolution breaks out, O’Connell goes to London to study law, and in 1798 he is called to the Irish bar. His forensic skill enables him to use the courts as nationalist forums. Although he has joined the Society of United Irishmen, a revolutionary society, as early as 1797, he refuses to participate in the Irish Rebellion of the following year. When the Act of Union takes effect on January 1, 1801 and abolishes the Irish Parliament, he insists that the British Parliament repeal the anti-Catholic laws in order to justify its claim to represent the people of Ireland. From 1813 he opposes various Catholic relief proposals because the government, with the acquiescence of the papacy, has the right to veto nominations to Catholic bishoprics in Great Britain and Ireland. Although permanent political organizations of Catholics are illegal, O’Connell sets up a nationwide series of mass meetings to petition for Catholic emancipation.

On May 12, 1823, O’Connell and Richard Lalor Sheil found the Catholic Association, which quickly attracts the support of the Irish priesthood and of lawyers and other educated Catholic laymen and which eventually comprises so many members that the government can not suppress it. In 1826, when it is reorganized as the New Catholic Association, it causes the defeat of several parliamentary candidates sponsored by large landowners. In County Clare in July 1828, O’Connell himself, although as a Catholic ineligible to sit in the House of Commons, defeats a man who tries to support both the British government and Catholic emancipation. This result impresses on the British prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the need for making a major concession to the Irish Catholics. Following the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, O’Connell, after going through the formality of an uncontested reelection, takes his seat at Westminster.

In April 1835, he helps to overthrow Sir Robert Peel’s Conservative ministry. In the same year, he enters into the “Lichfield House compact,” whereby he promises the Whig Party leaders a period of “perfect calm” in Ireland while the government enacts reform measures. O’Connell and his Irish adherents, known collectively as “O’Connell’s tail,” then aid in keeping the weak Whig administration of William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, in office from 1835 to 1841. By 1839, however, O’Connell realizes that the Whigs will do little more than the Conservatives for Ireland, and in 1840 he founds the Repeal Association to dissolve the Anglo-Irish legislative union. A series of mass meetings in all parts of Ireland culminate in O’Connell’s arrest for seditious conspiracy, but he is released on appeal in September 1844 after three months’ imprisonment. Afterward his health fails rapidly and the nationalist leadership falls to the radical Young Ireland group.

O’Connell dies at the age of 71 of cerebral softening in 1847 in Genoa, Italy, while on a pilgrimage to Rome. His time in prison has seriously weakened him, and the appallingly cold weather he has to endure on his journey is probably the final blow. According to his dying wish, his heart is buried at Sant’Agata dei Goti, then the chapel of the Irish College, in Rome and the remainder of his body in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, beneath a round tower.