Daniel O'Connell was born in 1775 in Cahirciveen, County Kerry. Although he was born into the native ascendancy, he was raised among the Catholic peasantry and thus learned not only the Gaelic language, but also the many tribulations faced by the poorer class.
As a teenager he was sent to
He qualified as a barrister and built a successful practice in
In 1802 O'Connell married his cousin Mary. The marriage was a good one with 12 children being born, although only 7 survived.
The 1800 Act of Union had raised hopes of Catholic emancipation but these remained unfulfilled. O'Connell soon got involved in political activities and in 1823 founded the Catholic Association with the express aim of securing emancipation.
O'Connell was known a famous orator, debater and a sharp wit. He was a regular thorn in the side of the
To everyone's surprise O'Connell accepted the challenge and fatally wounded D'Esterre. O'Connell always regretted his death, and later assisted the D'Estere family financially.
With the backing of the clergy O'Connell stood for election to the English parliament in
By this time O'Connell had given up his legal practice and was concentrating fully on politics. He set his sight on repealing the Act of Union and the establishment of an Irish parliament. His Repeal Association organised monster meetings that attracted hundreds of thousands. An estimated three-quarters of a million people attended the Hill of Tara meeting. The authorities responded by banning a similar meeting scheduled for Clontarf in 1843. Despite cancelling the meeting O'Connell was arrested and charged with conspiracy. He served 3 months in prison before being released but the damage had been done. The tactics that had achieved emancipation could not be used to achieve an Irish parliament. His stay in prison had also adversely affected his health.
The more radical 'Young Irelanders' withdrew from the Repeal Association. In the countryside the potato crop was already beginning to fail. The Great Famine of 1847 devastated the Irish countryside. O'Connell tried to help and spoke in the
O'Connell will always be known as the 'Liberator' and Catholic emancipation was indeed his greatest success. It is unknown if his peaceful mass protests could have achieved any further concessions on the road to Irish independence. Thefamine that resulted in over 1 million deaths from starvation and a further million taking the emigrants boat stopped any political momentum dead in its tracks.
At 70 years of age O'Connell was advised to move to a warmer climate to placate his ailing health. He set off for