Daniel O’Connell’s Irish legacy

A chara, – Though Daniel O’Connell was against discrimination on grounds of religion, sex or colour, he did not see all languages as created equal. In 1833 when Irish was the still widespread throughout the country he said:

“I am sufficiently utilitarian not to regret its gradual abandonment. A diversity of tongues is of no benefit; it was first imposed as a curse, at the building of Babel. It would be of vast advantage to mankind if all the inhabitants of the earth spoke the same language.

“Therefore, although the language is associated with many recollections that twine round the hearts of Irishmen, yet the superior utility of the English tongue, as the medium of all modern communication is so great, that I can witness, without a sigh, the gradual disuse of Irish”.

O’Connell did not singlehandedly turn the tide against Irish, but was a person of great influence whose indifference to the fate of the language, a decade before the Famine, certainly compounded the policies of the Maynooth seminary and the national schools of replacing of Irish with English.


Sixty years later Douglas Hyde, realising the psychological damage of O’Connell’s utilitarian argument, wrote of the feeling which made people blush and hang their heads in shame when overheard speaking their own language. – Is mise,



Co Chill Mhantain.