Spielberg interested in making film about Daniel O’Connell

Minister for Arts says director discussed project with actor Daniel Day-Lewis


Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg has expressed an interest in making a film about Daniel O’Connell after learning about him while researching his film on Abraham Lincoln, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan has said.

Mr Deenihan told the revived Daniel O’Connell Summer School in Cahersiveen and Derrynane, Co Kerry, that when he mentioned O’Connell to Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis, they had already discussed the possibility of making a film about the man who won Catholic emancipation.

“I certainly think there is a major film in O’Connell – I recently met Stephen Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis and I mentioned O’Connell to them and gave them Prof Patrick Geoghegan’s book on O’Connell and they had already discussed it before I mentioned it which is very encouraging.

“Nothing is certain but the success of Lincoln makes a stronger case for O’Connell who was a friend of Frederick Douglas, who was an influence on Lincoln – it would have an international appeal given O’Connell’s role in the anti-slavery campaign as well as in both Jewish and Catholic emancipations.”

Mr Deenihan said he hoped to discuss the possible project when he visits the US in November where he will meet with senior figures in the film industry. “Hopefully something will come of it because O’Connell is certainly a figure worthy of a major film treatment.”

Memorial day

About 300 people who attended the summer school, organised as part of the Gathering, heard historian Prof John A Murphy call on the Irish State to honour O’Connell as the father of Irish democracy by officially declaring a Daniel O’Connell memorial day.

“Official Ireland has never adequately recognised its debt to Daniel O’Connell . . . it is the glorifiers of physical force nationalism who are always celebrated by the State and not the architects of constitutional democracy,” he said.

Fellow historian Dr Fergus O’Ferrall said O’Connell’s pioneering commitment to the separation of church and state offers a model for church-state relations today as an alternative to models based on either the politicisation or the privatisation of faith.

“This model involves a vision of public life in which citizens of all faiths are free to enter and engage the public square on the basis of their faith but within a constitutional and legal framework of what is agreed to be just and fair for other faiths too,” Dr O’Ferrall said. [Thus, what is] a right for a Christian, is a right for a Jew, is a right for a secularist, a right for a Mormon and a right for a Muslim as O’Connell made clear . . . it might be described as ‘the civil public square’,” he added.

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said that as a barrister, O’Connell expressed himself with “extreme freedom” both in and out of court including once accusing attorney general William Saurin of being corrupt and telling a judge he would not submit to his “dictatorship from the bench”.

‘Status and popularity’

“No doubt it [O’Connell’s willingness to speak his mind] cost him cases and clients but it raised him to a status and popularity never previously achieved by a person who held no public position except that of a practising barrister,” he said. Goal chief executive Barry Andrews said O’Connell’s opposition to slavery, support for women’s rights and central belief in the brotherhood of man played a part in shaping Ireland’s international outlook today, including non-alignment and peace-building.