Daniel O'Connell

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Daniel O'Connell

Daniel O'Connell (Irish language: Dónal Ó Conaill; 6 August 177515 May 1847), hailed in his time as The Liberator, was the acknowledged political leader of Ireland's Roman Catholic majority in the first half of the 19th century. His mobilisation of Catholic Ireland through to the poorest class of tenant farmer helped secure Catholic emancipation in 1829 and allowed him to take a seat in the United Kingdom Parliament to which he had twice been elected.


  • The altar of liberty totters when it is cemented only with blood
    • Written in his Journal, Dec 1796, and one of O'Connell's most well-known quotes. Quoted by O'Ferrall, F., Daniel O'Connell, Dublin, 1981, p. 12
  • Good God, what a brute man becomes when ignorant and oppressed. Oh Liberty! What horrors are committed in thy name! May every virtuous revolutionist remember the horrors of Wexford!
    • Written in his Journal, 2nd Jan 1799, referring to the recent 1798 Rebellion. Quoted from Vol I, p. 205, of O'Neill Daunt, W. J., Personal Recollections of the Late Daniel O'Connell, M.P., 2 Vols, London, 1848.
  • My days – the blossom of my youth and the flower of my manhood – have been darkened by the dreariness of servitude. In this my native land – in the land of my sires – I am degraded without fault as an alien and an outcast.
    • July 1812, aged 37, reflecting on the failure to secure equal rights or Catholic Emancipation for Catholics in Ireland. Quoted from Vol I, p. 185, of O'Connell, J. (ed.) The Life and Speeches of Daniel O'Connell, 2 Vols, Dublin, 1846)
  • No person knows better than you do that the domination of England is the sole and blighting curse of this country. It is the incubus that sits on our energies, stops the pulsation of the nation’s heart and leaves to Ireland not gay vitality but horrid the convulsions of a troubled dream.
    • Letter to Bishop Doyle, 1831 (O’Connell Correspondence, Vol IV, Letter No. 1860)
  • At Taunton this miscreant had the audacity to style me an incendiary! Why, I was a greater incendiary in 1831 than I am at present, if I ever were one; and if I am, he is doubly so, for having employed me. Then he calls me a traitor. My answer to that is, he is a liar. He is a liar in action and in words. His life is a living lie. He is a disgrace to his species. What taste of society must that be that could tolerate such a creature, having the audacity to come forward with one set of principles at one time, and obtain political assistance by reason of those principles, and at another to profess diametrically the reverse? His life, I say again, is a living lie. He is the most degraded of his species and kind, and England is degraded in tolerating, or having upon the face of her society a miscreant of his abominable, foul, and atrocious nature. My language is harsh, and I owe an apology for it; but I will tell you why I owe that apology: it is for this reason, that if there be harsher terms in the British language I should use them, because it is the harshest of all terms that would be descriptive of a wretch of his species. He possesses just the qualities of the impenitent thief who died upon the cross, whose name, I verily believe, must have been D'Israeli. For aught I know, the present D'Israeli is descended from him, and with the impression that he is, I now forgive the heir-at-law of the blasphemous thief who died upon the cross.
    • Speech to the Dublin Franchise Association at the Corn Exchange (2 May 1835), quoted in Michael MacDonagh, The Life of Daniel O'Connell (1903), p. 250
  • There is an utter ignorance of, and indifference to, our sufferings and privations….What care they for us, provided we be submissive, pay the taxes, furnish recruits for the Army and Navy and bless the masters who either despise or oppress or combine both? The apathy that exists respecting Ireland is worse than the national antipathy they bear us.
    • Letter to T.M. Ray, 1839, on English attitudes to Ireland (O’Connell Correspondence, Vol VI, Letter No. 2588)
  • I want to make all Europe and America know it – I want to make England feel her weakness if she refuses to give the justice we the Irish require – the restoration of our domestic parliament...
    • Speech given at a ‘monster’ meeting held at Drogheda, June, 1843
  • The principle of my political life …. is, that all ameliorations and improvements in political institutions can be obtained by persevering in a perfectly peaceable and legal course, and cannot be obtained by forcible means, or if they could be got by forcible means, such means create more evils than they cure, and leave the country worse than they found it.
    • Writing in The Nation (Irish newspaper), 18 November, 1843.


  • Gentlemen, you may soon have the alternative to live as slaves or die as free men
    • from his speech in Mallow, County Cork
  • How cruel the Penal Laws are which exclude me from a fair trial with men whom I look upon as so much my inferiors...
    • O’Connell’s Correspondence, Letter No 700, Vol II
  • No man was ever a good soldier but the man who goes into the battle determined to conquer, or not to come back from the battle field (cheers). No other principle makes a good soldier.
    • O’Connell recalling the spirited conduct of the Irish soldiers in Wellington’s army, at the Monster meeting held at Mullaghmast. Envoi, Taking Leave of Roy Foster, by Brendan Clifford and Julianne Herlihy, Aubane Historical Society, Cork.pg 16

Quotes about Daniel O'Connell[edit]

  • This man, O'Connell, is the hired instrument of the Papacy; as such, his mission is to destroy your Protestant Society, and, as such, he is a more terrible enemy to England than Napoleon, with all his inspiration. Your empire and your liberties are in more danger at this moment than when the army of invasion was encamped at Boulogne.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, 'Letter VIII. to the People' (2 February 1836), The Letters of Runnymede (1836), p. 72
  • Now we have a precise idea of the political character of O'Connell. And I have often marvelled when I have listened to those who have denounced his hypocrisy or admired his skill, when they have read of the triumphant demagogue humbling himself in the mud before a simple priest. There was no hypocrisy in this, no craft. The agent recognised his principal, the slave bowed before his lord; and when he pressed to his lips those sacred robes, reeking with whisky and redolent of incense, I doubt not that his soul was filled at the same time with unaffected awe and devout gratitude.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, 'Letter VIII. to the People' (2 February 1836), The Letters of Runnymede (1836), pp. 72-73

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