Asses the view that Daniel OConnell was the greatest Irish nationalist leader for the period 1780-1845.

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Asses the view that Daniel O’Connell was the greatest Irish nationalist leader for the period 1780-1845.

There are a variety of aspects that can be scrutinised in the evaluation of the extent to which Daniel O’Connell was the greatest Irish nationalist leader between the years of 1780 and 1845. It is best to group these aspects into four main themes; tactics, achievements, following, and the development of the sense of Irishness within his followers, and the country. It is through the judgement of these features that the ‘greatness’ of O’Connell can properly be assessed.

The tactics O’Connell used, arguably, epitomised his success and competence as nationalist leader.  The ‘Catholic Rent’ was an ingenious method of obtaining the necessary funds for his Catholic Association. With its one-penny a month subscription rate, O’Connell was able to amass the support of the whole country- including the lowly peasantry. This tactical thoughtfulness allowed the Association to gain the support it needed to launch a full-scale campaign for Emancipation (a proper mass-movement), and could therefore be seen as a defining factor of O’Connell’s greatness. Repeal rent during the campaign of repeal some decades later also evidences such political competence. It is unlikely that the Association would have had the success it had without its large backing. His open-air mass meetings and posters were also a unique part of his leadership, and the fact that they encouraged mass support evidences his capability as Irish nationalist leader; the fact that no leader prior to O’Connell had managed to amass such widespread nationwide support perhaps best supports the claim to his outstanding leadership ability, and therefore greatness as Irish leader. His political tactics also set him aside from past Irish leaders, and ensured that his goals would be realised. By using the policy of brinkmanship, he managed to be highly successful in pursuing his aims for Ireland.

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Perhaps in order to judge the successes, or ‘greatness’ of any leader, their achievements must properly be analysed and evaluated in order to get a full picture of the extent to their success. O’Connell’s two main aims- Catholic Emancipation and repeal of the Act of Union had varying levels of attainment. The immediate evaluation of the passing of the Catholic Emancipation results in the assessment of O’Connell’s aims as successful. But this does not necessarily translate into O’Connell as being a ‘great’ leader. The period after the Emancipation Act saw no real change in the Irish way of life; the ...

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