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Did Daniel O' Connell deserve the name 'The Great Liberator'?

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Introduction

Did Daniel O' Connell deserve the name 'The Great Liberator'? In the early nineteenth century, times were desperate for the Roman Catholic population in Ireland. Although the extreme hostility towards those who wished for Catholic Emancipation had by then died down, there was still prejudice against those of Catholic origin. They were still not given full political rights, and their loyalties towards either the Aristocracy or the Pope were called into question - ultimately, they were mis-trusted, and perhaps even feared. Because of this, there was fierce and defiant opposition to Catholic Emancipation, especially during the teenage years of the nineteenth century. Even those of upper class Roman Catholic origin within Ireland were wary in their dealings with the Authorities. They were unwilling to risk their comfortable positions of wealth and power in their social structure, and because of this lack of unity and decisiveness, the real chances of success for Catholic Emancipation was always clearly disabled. Daniel O' Connell, a highly educated, and extremely devout Roman Catholic, rejected this lack or enthusiasm and increased negativity utterly. ...read more.

Middle

In the early years of the Catholic Association, O'Connell's shrewd diplomatic skills were used to help to create a truly national organisation, that later became known as 'the crusade of an irresistible mass movement'. O'Connell was an extremely clever man. Between the period of 1823-9, he indeed 'crusaded' towards victory in the eventual form of Emancipation, and much of this came about because of his appeal to the Catholic peasantry (who thought of him as their 'deliverer'). During this time, he created elaborate, but effective schemes in order to help fund the Association, and to keep prolonged pressure on government. During public speaking, he addressed the importance of Irish Nationalism (and the necessity for the redress of Catholic grievances, albeit in a pacifistic fashion), but also, he subtly 'attacked' the English government, and caused discomfort within their ranks. He hinted that their failure to yield to the demands of the Association could lead to mass disobedience and even revolt or violence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Emancipation Act never progressed, nor was it 'built upon' by 'the liberator', as far as many Irish Catholics were concerned. Even so, he did spearhead the 'Repeal Association' during these years, and it cannot be denied that his overriding loyalties stood in a desire for the 'old, traditional' Ireland to return. Ultimately, Daniel O'Connell did deserve the title 'the Great Liberator'. His greatest achievement by far was the Emancipation Act of 1829. This freed Catholics from liberal, protestant dominance. It was mainly his actions that liberated the vast majority of Ireland's population. Of greatest importance were O'Connell's pursued methods for political reform. He appealed to all men of any religious, or social persuasion, and to all classes as well. This aimed to promote peaceful organisation of mass opinion (rather than violence) to change the law. There is no doubt that the man was of huge significance in 'liberating many Irish in the wake of English domination.' As J.C. Beckett once wrote: 'No other single person has left such an unmistakable mark on the history of Ireland'. ...read more.

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