On the night of Saturday, October 7, 1843, a proclamation is issued from Dublin Castle banning a Repeal Association meeting called by Daniel O’Connell north of the city at Clontarf on the following day.
The proclamation is written by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Robert Peel, who calls the proposed meeting for the restoration of the Parliament of Ireland, abolished in 1801, “an attempt to overthrow the constitution of the British Empire as by law established.”
Two warships, the Rhathemus and the Dee, steam into Dublin Harbour, carrying around 3,000 British troops to ensure the mass rally in favour of Repeal of the Union does not take place. The nationalist newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, alleges that the troops have been summoned to “cut the people down” and “run riot in the blood of the innocent.”
O’Connell, the charismatic leader of the Repeal Association, has always insisted that his movement is non-violent. On the banning of the meeting and the arrival of troops, he frantically moves to call it off and to prevent “the slaughter of the people.”
Handbills are posted around the streets of Dublin advising his supporters of the meeting’s cancellation. A prominent Dublin builder and O’Connell supporter, Peter Martin, is sent to Clontarf to dismantle the platform erected there. Other activists are sent on horseback to the roads leading into the city to send back the thousands converging on Clontarf for the meeting.
The following day passes without incident. The Freeman’s Journal rages against the “corrupt and impotent Government that has perverted the form of law for the purpose of robbing the people.”
The Warder, a Dublin unionist newspaper, had been urging the suppression of the “plainly illegal under common law” O’Connellite mass meetings for months. The newspaper stops short of calling for civil war in the run–up to the meeting. Now it declares itself satisfied. It congratulates the Conservative government for belatedly seeing sense.
By contrast, the Repeal camp is deeply split. Many, particularly those Young Irelanders grouped around The Nation, blame O’Connell for capitulation to the threat of force and for his unwillingness to confront the British government. They break from him acrimoniously the following year.
With the cancellation of the Clontarf meeting, O’Connell’s strategy of mass mobilisation in pursuit of Irish self government is over. He himself is arrested on charges of “seditious conspiracy” three days later.
(From: “Today in Irish History, The Repeal Meeting at Clontarf is Banned, 8 October 1843, John Dorney, The Irish Story (theirishstory.com), October 8, 2011)