Daniel O’Connell Biography


Who is Daniel O’Connell? Information on Daniel O’Connell biography, life story, works and political career.

Daniel O'ConnellDaniel O’Connell; (1775-1847), Irish patriot, known as “the Liberator,” who was a leader in the British Parliament. He was born in Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland, on Aug. 6, 1775. After studying in France at the Catholic colleges of St.-Omer and Douai, he returned home and studied law. In 1798 he was admitted to the bar, and soon he began to distinguish himself through his legal skill and persuasive oratory. After a speech O’Connell made in Dublin early in 1800, at a meeting held to petition against the union of Ireland and Britain, he was regarded as one of the most promising and energetic of the younger Catholic leaders.

The question of Catholic emancipation—the repeal of the laws placing civil disabilities on Catholics—was one of the most urgent issues of the time. O’Connell, as a tireless member of various Catholic societies and unions, was active in attempts to resolve national grievances, the chief remaining one being that Catholics could not sit in the British Parliament without taking an oath contrary to conscience. In 1823 he founded the Catholic Association, which agitated actively despite government measures against it.

In 1828, O’Connell took a decisive step by becoming the County Clare candidate for Parliament. He was elected but could not take his seat, because he refused to take the preliminary oath. His overwhelming election victory, however, was a fact that could not be ignored. As the feeling in favor of emancipation increased, the government of the duke of Wellington decided that it must concede it. Tension in Ireland was mounting, and the government perceived the threat of civil war. In 1829, therefore, the Catholic emancipation bill was passed. Under its provisions O’Connell took his seat, and he became the leader of the Irish members in the House of Commons, in which he continued to represent County Clare until his death. He was for many years the recipient of a large sum contributed annually by his Catholic countrymen, who idolized him as their liberator.

In 1841, O’Connell became lord mayor of Dublin, the first Catholic to hold that office since the reign of James II. During this period he concentrated his efforts on achieving the repeal of the union of 1800 between Britain and Ireland, and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. He was the chief speaker at many large meetings. In 1843, arrested on a charge of conspiracy and sedition, he was convicted, fined, and imprisoned. But on Sept. 4, 1844, the House of Lords reversed the judgment.

O’Connell then returned to his seat in Parliament. His influence was waning, however, because a new Irish party—called Young Ireland-had arisen. Advocating more radical measures, it did not favor O’Connell’s “moral force” policy. In 1846 he supported the Whig ministry, which alienated him still further from the activist Young Irelanders.

O’Connell’s health had been precarious for some time, and in 1847 he set off for Italy in search of the sun. On his way to Rome, he died In Genoa on May 15, 1847.

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