Daniel O’Connell’s legacy
Sir, – James Connolly had many admirable attributes but accuracy on history was not one of them. Kieran McNulty repeats Connolly’s misleading characterisation of Daniel O’Connell’s attitude to the working class and to labour organisation (Letters, August 21st). O’Connell was in fact the “friend and advocate” of workers and who spoke of “a master class and a slave class” when criticising employers. O’Connell did oppose violent activities through secret combinations which were often employed to retain the monopolies of certain workers in certain trades. O’Connell supported the freedom of workers to combine in trades unions for the purpose of raising wages. O’Connell successfully sought to persuade workers to use moral force and public opinion and not what he described as “the bludgeon and the knobstick”.
O’Connell’s social concern, his defence of the Tolpuddle martyrs and his guidance on effective peaceful labour agitation techniques, as well as his membership of the London Working Men’s Association, all make him a most significant figure in labour history.
It is well past time that Connolly’s “chapter of horrors” in his Labour in Irish History is seen for what it is – horrible history! – Yours, etc,