22 Apr

Daniel O’Connell was born in Cahirciveen, County Kerry, on 6th August 1775. The O’Connell family were members of the Irish Catholic aristocracy in Ireland. Although Daniel’s family were fairly wealthy, discriminatory legislation denied the O’Connell family status, opportunity and influence.

In 1791 Maurice O’Connell, the head of the O’Connell clan, adopted Daniel and paid for him to attend the best Catholic colleges in Europe. This included periods at St. Omer and Douai. In 1794 O’Connell enrolled in Lincoln’s Inn, London and two years later transferred to the King’s Inn, Dublin. While in London O’Connell became interested in politics.

By the time he had graduated and became a lawyer in 1798 O’Connell had fully committed himself to the religious tolerance fight, freedom of conscience, democracy and the separation of Church and State.

In Ireland O’Connell developed a reputation for his radical political views. He became involved with the United Irishmen, a group that had been inspired by the French Revolution. During the 1798 insurrection, O’Connell feared he would be arrested by the English authorities and went into hiding in Kerry. Despite his radical views, O’Connell opposed the insurrection. He argued that the Irish people “were not sufficiently enlightened to hear the sun of freedom” and that the insurrection had decreased rather than increased the desire for Irish liberation. Instead of rebellion, O’Connell advocated using the machinery of Parliament to obtain political and religious equality.

In 1829, Daniel O’Connell,  now a Catholic Lawyer turned Member of Parliament eradicated the last of the Penal Laws giving equal rights to all Irish people, and allowing Catholics to actively participate in the government (Even though Catholics had all the same rights as their Protestant counterparts, they were still treated as second class citizens, and still made up the majority of the lower class population of Ireland.


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