The Great Liberator
Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) was born not far from Cahersiveen in a place called Caherdaniel, County Kerry.
The nephew and future heir of a catholic landowner, Muiris “Hunting Cap” O’Connell. He came from an old Gaelic family of traders and smugglers and their home was a major centre of Gaelic culture.
Daniel’s grandmother had 22 children and was a great wit. Her daughter, Eilin Dubh, composed a magnificent lament for her husband who was shot dead because he would not, under laws discriminating against Catholics, give up his fine horse.
The young O’Connell went to a local school, then to France, and later he studied law in London, becoming a barrister of great distinction.
As a barrister he rose to fame for his opposition to legislation that prevented Catholics from sitting in Parliament and from holding senior positions such as that of Judge.
The demand for Catholic Emancipation became a highly successful mass-movement across the country and O’Connell’s skill as an orator and organiser propelled him to becoming the first Catholic to sit in the British House of Commons.
He went on to campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union. The repeal movement reached a crisis in 1843 when a series of huge open-air demonstrations led to the British Government banning such meetings.
O’Connell was arrested and imprisoned, although he was soon released, the whole experience seemed to have weakened his resolve and he died in 1847, worn out by a lifetime of struggle.
When the foundation stone for his statue was laid in what is now known as O’Connell Street in Dublin, more than half a million people gathered to pay tribute.
The O`Connell Memorial Church in Cahirciveen
was erected in his honour and, a special papal dispensation had to be
granted. It is the only Roman Catholic church in the world not named
after a saint or a member of the Holy Trinity or the Holy Family.
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