Former Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD has backed a call for the establishment of a substantial memorial to the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell in the UK in recognition of his achievements in British parliamentary politics.
Mr Deenihan said he fully supported a call by Irish ambassador to the UK, Dan Mulhall for the creation of a memorial to O'Connell in London where he was a leading reform figure in the British Parliament from 1830 until 1847.
Mr Mulhall told the Daniel O’Connell Summer School in Derrynane that O’Connell was a major figure in 19th century British politics and while he has been recognised with the unveiling of a plaque in Mayfair last year, he believed he 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 iifetime,” said Mr Mulhall.
“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.”
Mr Deenihan said that he was fully supportive of the idea of O’Connell’s achievements being recognised in the UK by some memorial and he had already held discussions with Mr Mulhall and others in the UK about the possibility of commemorating the Cahersiveen born figure.
"I am totally supportive of it. Certainly if a major sculpture is provided for Gandhi and other distinguished world leaders in London, then why not O'Connell so that should be a huge priority and Dan is in discussions in England at the moment, progressing that initiative," he said.
Mr Deenihan said he was confident the Irish government would be supportive of such an initiative once a suitable location was identified in London and he pointed out the Irish government has in the past provided financial support for many overseas projects such as GAA grounds in the UK and US.
Mr Deenihan's comments comparing O'Connell to Gandhi echo a similar comparison made by Prof Martin Daunton of English Heritage last October when the group unveiled a plaque to O'Connell on Albemarle Street in Mayfair where he stayed while attending parliament in London in 1833.
Prof Daunton said O’Connell was arguably the Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi of his age. “His campaign for Catholic emancipation and his principled opposition to slavery was - and still is - admired around the world,” he said.
"We are delighted to honour this towering figure in the city which formed the backdrop for much of his career," said Prof Daunton as O'Connell joined figures such as John Lennon, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Florence Nightingale and Jimi Hendrix who have also been honoured with similar plaques.