Daniel O’Connell deserves a memorial in the UK, says ambassador

Catholic emancipation paved the way for British Catholics to sit in parliament, says Mulhall

Statue of Daniel O’Connell on O’Connell Street in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Statue of Daniel O’Connell on O’Connell Street in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Daniel O’Connell should be remembered in Britain with some sort of memorial in recognition of his contribution to British politics including paving the way for British Catholics to sit in parliament, the Irish Ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall, has said.

Mr Mulhall said O’Connell was a major figure in 19th century British politics and while he has been recognised by English Heritage last year with the unveiling of a plaque on Albemarle Street in Mayfair, he believed O’Connell was worthy of a more substantial memorial in Britain.

“I am trying to find some way of erecting some kind of memorial to O’Connell in Britain .... I would like to see O’Connell memorialised more appropriately in Britain given the huge contribution he made to British politics during his lifetime,” Mr Mulhall said.

“In particular in light of the fact that every Catholic member of the British Parliament since 1829 owes their position in that parliament to the great achievement of O’Connell’s career which was the granting of Catholic emancipation in 1829.”

Speaking at the Daniel O’Connell Summer School at O’Connell’s home in Derrynane in Co Kerry, Mr Mulhall said O’Connell had an ambivalent attitude towards Britain where he sat in Parliament for some 17 years and became a leading figure in the reform movement.

“He was not especially happy in London during his student days though when he went back as a representative of Catholic Ireland, he was clearly flattered by the attention he received from the more prominent members of Britain’s Catholic community.

“But he also felt resentment at the inferior status that befell him as an Irish Catholic when, even as a highly educated, highly able legal practitioner, he has to endure being looked down on by people he knows are inferior to him in ability.”

At the same time, O’Connell was an admirer of the British monarchy and had a fondness for Queen Victoria, believing the young queen would help bring justice to Ireland, Mr Mulhall told the 150 strong audience, attending the second day of the summer school.

Earlier, Prof Maurice Bric of University College Dublin’s School of History and Archives said that O’Connell was recognised internationally, both in his own time and subsequently, as a being a forceful advocate for all human rights, irrespective of a person’s creed, class or colour.

Prof Bric noted that O’Connell saw his campaign for Catholic emancipation as an argument that civil rights should not be blinded or in any way qualified by private religious belief and that was why he also championed the cause of both Presbyterian Ireland and Jewish emancipation.

O’Connell distinguished between loyalty to a church and loyalty to the state, he said.

Prof Bric said he was very wary of the concept of a state church whether that was the Church of Ireland in Ireland or the Catholic Church in France and Spain.

Prof Bric pointed out that O’Connell’s reforming zeal also saw him become a major figure within the British Parliament to abolish slavery within the British Empire, and he told voters in Kerry in the general election of 1831 that his claim to be their MP rested on reform and the abolition of slavery.

“This of course reminds us of how O’Connell saw himself as a public man - that, as he said during the election of 1831, he would not be ‘the representative of any one sect or any one persuasion” and that his politics and political views transcended class ,creed and colour,” Prof Bric said.