Daniel O'Connell - Lawyer - MP & Defender Of Catholic Ireland
An immensely popular Famous Son of Ireland, Daniel O’Connell was a Kerryman who roused his own people to denounce all forces that sought to obstruct freedom of religion, and especially the Catholic faith in Ireland during his own lifetime.
His final years in education were spent in France and Belgium and the French Revolution instilled a rejection of violent means to claim political destiny. Prior to 1793 no Catholics were permitted into the legal profession. The English Catholic Relief Act did not permit the catholic Kerryman to study law.
He qualified abroad in 1798, returned home and soon became a major public voice against foreign occupation of his native land.
He committed himself to Catholic Emancipation and Repeal of The Union. In 1810 he became chairman of the Catholic Committee and in 1813 the authorities agreed to introduce a Catholic Relief Bill, with many unjust conditions still imposed.
Daniel rejected outright the new bill. In 1823 he founded the Catholic Association, whose aim was to obtain Catholic Freedom and outlaw rack renting. The new alliance was soon suppressed in 1825, but O’Connell’s resolve was not for yielding to foreign dictatorship in his own native land. He founded a ‘New Catholic Association’ with similar principles and by now he was becoming a major thorn for the British establishment.
In 1828 he made a decision to enter Irish politics when a Co. Clare seat became vacant and he had a facile victory. The next assignment was to travel to Westminster to occupy his seat. When called to take the oath, which declared the Catholic religion to be false, O’Connell seized his moment and promptly declined.
Fearing an Irish civil war, Prime Minister, Wellington, sought advice and capitulated to O’Connell by granting Catholic Emancipation and also George 1V conceded to the noble Irishman.
This historic landmark gave Catholics the rights to become members of both Houses of Parliament; hold any office, except that of King, Viceroy or Lord Chancellor; and the forty shilling free holders in Ireland lost their right to vote.
In 1840 following many more historic initiatives, O’Connell became the very first Catholic Lord Mayor of Dublin. His 1830 founding of the Repeal Association became a significant factor as O’Connell went about staging major meetings all around Ireland.
The rulers of Ireland were getting anxious about O’Connell’s popularity and in 1844 he was arrested and jailed for conspiracy. He was later released on appeal to the House of Lords.
The Repeal Movement collapsed under duress and then the Great Irish Famine brought great misery into O’Connell’s life and his health declined.
On a pilgrimage to Rome he collapsed and died at Genoa in 1847.