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Why is Daniel O'connell considered to be a great nationalist leader?

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Why is Daniel O'connell considered to be a great nationalist leader? Daniel O'connell was the most prominent Irish Nationalist figurehead throughout the first half of the nineteength century. He is remembered as possibly the greatest leader of Irish Nationalism as he was, in reality, the first to have any real success in elevating the condition of his people. In the main, O'connell favoured a more peaceful, and compromising approach in the battle for Irish reform. This approach was considerably succesful with the British Government, particularly that of Wellington, and Peel. Perhaps his success was aided due to the stark contrast in his attitude, to that of the revolutionary Wolfe Tone, leader of the militant Society of United Irishmen. As well as O'Connell being the most succesful Irish Nationalist of his time, O'Connell was also a strong supporter of Catholic emancipation. As an educated Catholic, O'connell was strongly opposed to the Union from the start. Though the union meant that Irish Parliament was offered improved representation, it also meant that Catholics would become a minority, and therefore would see little, if any improvement in their conditions. ...read more.


O'Connell had been raised to hero status by this victory, and his position as Irish leader was unrivalled. After Catholic emancipation, O'Connells influence was stronger than ever before, he became head of a small group of Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons, known as the O'Connellites. O'Connell was aware that they wouldnt achieve much on their own, and consequently he became far more affiliated with the English Whig Party. Though O'Connell was hopeful of the repeal of the union and the whigs were most certainly against it, he felt that they were a good deal better than the Conservatives. In fact, O'Connell did win a steady trickle of reforms through his work alongside the whigs, where more people were given the vote, plus a new poor law system was introduced, as well as the passing of the Corporations Act. Undeniably though, the Irish were still treated quite differently to their English neighbours. However, the Whigs seemed to gain more from the relationship, with O'Connell being forced to compromise on numerous occassions in order to keep the Whigs in power. ...read more.


The peaceful and negotiating attitude which had been so succesful in his Catholic emancipation campaign, had backfired on him in the repeal campaign. Undoubtedly, the winning of Catholic emancipation was the greatest nationalist victory up until it was effected. The tact which had served him so well in securing election, and thereby forcing emancipation without violence was no longer sufficient. The criticism which he received from groups such as 'Young Ireland' over the Clontarf incident was not without foundation, but was somewhat overlooking of the fact that O'Connell had received much success in the past. Undoubtedly, O'Connell had failed this time, and possibly some militant action was needed in order to force an Act of such magnitude, but as O'Connell stated himself the repeal campaign had, 'aroused' England 'from a slumber' and made them aware of what Peel called, 'Ireland's social ills'. O'Connell is remembered as such a great nationalist leader because he opened the door from which improvement in Catholic conditions, and Ireland as a whole, would come flooding. He was the first nationalist to have any real success, and as a result deserves his placein Irish folklore as 'The Liberator'. ...read more.

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