Daniel O’Connell Summer School 2018
Report and Contents
Friday August 31st, Cahersiveen Library
The Daniel O’Connell Summer School took place in Cahersiveen on Friday 31st August and in Derrynane House on Saturday 1st September. In welcoming everyone to the 6th Daniel O’Connell Summer School, Professor Maurice Bric said that the School was a celebration of O’Connell contribution to the world and of the local culture which formed him. He said that Kerry in O’Connell’s time was the hub of a widespread diaspora and network. Kerry might have seemed remote and wild to contemporaries and dominated by Gaelic culture but people in Kerry, thanks to their widespread family and business connections, knew more about what was going on in Paris, Vienna, and Rome than people in Dublin knew.
Professor Bric referred to the exhibition of books about South Kerry in Cahersiveen Library open concurrently with the School and expressed his astonishment at the number of books that had been written about the area. He thanked Kerry Council, and the Library Service in particular, and the Office of Public Works for providing the venues each year for the School.
The Summer School was opened in Cahersiveen Library by Deputy Brendan Griffin, Minister of State for Tourism. Minister Griffin spoke about the importance of tourism to Ireland and to Kerry in particular. He suggested that O’Connell would have found it hard to believe that 10 million visitors came to Ireland in 2017. Over 235,000 people depend on income from tourism. He spoke about the importance of tourism to Kerry – one in five of the population work in the tourism sector, twice as many as in the country as a whole – and of the importance of protecting and increasing those jobs in the context of Brexit. He stressed the importance for tourism of such a rich heritage and bringing it to life. In referring to the proposed Greenway, he said that we owed it to the people who built the railway with blood, sweat and tears to redevelop it for the benefit of the people of the area. He said that he hoped that a consensus could be found to overcome the opposition of a few.
Minister Griffin posed two intriguing and topical questions – ‘What would Daniel O’Connell have thought of the visit by Prince Charles and Camilla to Derrynane, his beloved home, in June this year and the international media coverage of that visit? Or for that matter, what would he have made of the Cabinet holding one of its meetings in his dining room in July?’
In thanking Minister Griffin for opening the School, Professor Bric, suggested answers to the questions he had posed. He thought that O’Connell would have been delighted to receive the royal visitors and would have relished the international attention of the occasion. However, O’Connell would have been equally proud to make his home available for a cabinet meeting of an independent Irish government!
The O’Connell Church
Aisling O’Donoghue, a native of Cahersiveen and a lawyer, introduced Dr Gerard Brockie who spoke about ‘A Tale of Two Churches: The Oratory in Derrynane House and the O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen.’ Dr Brockie spoke about O’Connell’s devotion to Derrynane, as a place of refreshment and inspiration, and of the strength of his religious devotion in later life. O’Connell had the oratory in Derrynane built after he inherited the house from his uncle. A visitor in the 1840s described the zealous and rigorous devotion by O’Connell’s household in the oratory every morning. The oratory was clearly the centre of Derrynane house and to O’Connell’s life there.
Dr Brockie acknowledged the work of Con Costello (1) on the background to the building of the O’Connell Memorial church. In 1883, Canon Timothy Brosnan set out for Rome to secure support for a suitable memorial to O’Connell. It was a critical time in relations between the Irish church, the papacy and the British government. The fact that Conon Brosan took his case to Rome suggests that his efforts to commemorate O’Connell may have met resistance nearer to home. His efforts to secure papal approval for a church to commemorate O’Connell were supported in Rome by Fr Kirby, the head of the Irish College. The Canon was successful in his mission and Pope Leo X111 blessed and donated the foundation stone for a church and suggested that it be named after O’Connell. Despite the Land War, poor harvests and high emigration, Canon Brosnan set about raising donations from the public to build the church. Of the £14,000 raised to build the church, £3,000 was raised in Ireland and the rest came from abroad. In 1888, at Pope Leo’s suggestion, Archbishop Croke laid the foundation stone which he had previously blessed. The foundation stone is now inside the tower of the church and is a beautiful piece of marble from the Church of St Domilla in Rome. Canon Brosnan died in 1898 before the church was completed, with the first mass being said there in 1902.
The O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen is famous for being named after a layperson, rather than after a religious theme or a saint. However, the full name of the Church is the ‘Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church of the Holy Cross’. Dr Brockie suggested that the Memorial Church was a fitting monument to a great Irishman and Catholic and an inspirational figure abroad.
Statue of O’Connell in Cahersiveen
Shane O’Neill, vice-chairman of the local development association (ACARD), spoke about the commissioning of a statue of O’Connell for Cahersiveen. In cooperation with Kerry County Council, an international competition had been held and over 20 entries had been submitted. Rory Breslin’s submission had been selected as the winner. Breslin is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and his work has been commissioned all over Ireland and in France, England, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The statue will be erected in the grounds of the O’Connell Memorial Church. Mr O’Neill invited those attending the Summer School to view a maquette of the sculpture over coffee.
The Past in the Present – Three Commemorations
Moira Morell, CEO of Kerry County Council, moderated this session which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the extension of the franchise to women, the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and the seventy fifth anniversary of Bunreacht na hÉireann. She introduced Yvonne Galligan, Professor of Political Science at Queen’s University Belfast who spoke about ‘Broadening the Vote: the Impact of Women Voters on the Polity’. She said that in 1918, women were first given the right to vote and to stand for election to the House of Commons. To qualify to vote, women had to be over thirty and to be property owners. Two women stood for election in the general election of 31st November 1918, Winifred Carney in East Belfast, who was not elected and Countess Markievicz for Sinn Fein in Dublin who was elected but did not take her seat at Westminster. Under the Free State, the voting and candidacy age for women was reduced to 21. In the hundred years since, 114 women have been elected to Dáil Éireann. More women were elected than took their seats and many were the widows or daughters of politicians. In the early years of the state, women deputies did not promote woman’s issues. Policy in the 1920s and 1930s removed many rights from women such as family planning and employment following marriage. While Article 9/16 of Bunreacht na hÉireann protected women’s rights as citizens, it emphasised their position as mothers in the home and prohibited divorce.
In the 1970s, the call for greater rights for women and greater involvement of women in public life demanded a response. The Commission on the Status of Women, appointed in 1970, charted a way forward. The Women’s Political Association was formed in 1971, with the explicit aim of increasing the number of women elected to the Dáil. In 1979, Máire Geoghegan Quinn was the first women appointed a Minister, when she became Minister for the Gaeltacht. Mary Robinson’s election as President of Ireland in 1990 was a catalyst for change. In the general election of 1992, there was a significant increase in the number of women standing for election and in the number of women elected to the Dáil, increasing from 13 to 20 TDs. But these gains proved short-lived. In the 2016 general election, political parties were required to put forward women for at least 30 per cent of candidates for election or risk losing public funding. In that election, 35 women were elected to the Dáil, the largest number ever. By 2018, the percentage of women in the Oireachtas was 22 per cent and in local government, 25 per cent. See HERE for a copy of Professor Galligan’s paper.
Good Friday Agreement
John Coakley, Professor Emeritus of Politics, UCD spoke about the ‘The Good Friday Agreement: Context and Aftermath‘. He posed the questions of what has the Good Friday Agreement achieved and what is its future? The Good Friday Agreement is a complex document of 12,000 words, which was carefully drafted but ambiguously worded in parts. The Democratic Unionist Party opposed it and only accepted it in 2006. The Agreement provides for power sharing in Northern Ireland, north/south bodies and east/west institutions. It provides for a pathway to Irish unity if a majority of the people of Northern Ireland so wish. He said that it was difficult to predict the future of the Agreement because of the uncertainties that Brexit had created. It was easier to make predictions about the character of domestic changes in Northern Ireland, in particular because of demographic parity, socio-economic changes and political balance. In relation to demography, there were two different patterns among Catholics and Protestants – there were more Catholics under 40 years of age and more Protestants over 40. Traditionally, Protestants outnumbered Catholics by 2 to 1 but it is expected that by 2021, 46.2 per cent of the population will be Protestant, 45.9 per cent will be Catholic and 7.7 per cent classified as ‘others’.
There were still significant socio-economic differences between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Catholics predominated in poorly paid occupations. Protestants dominated local government employment and in the security forces. While unemployment was higher among Catholics, the difference between the two communities was diminishing.
Professor Coakley stressed that emergence of demographic parity did not imply the tipping of the population towards Irish unity. Protestants were solidly in favour of the Union with Great Britain but Catholics were not solidly in support of a united Ireland. Repeated surveys had shown that about half of Catholics in Northern Ireland were happy with the Union. However, Brexit had the capacity to undermine this soft support of the Union as it was contrary to their overwhelming wish to remain in the EU. The support for the EU among Protestants was much weaker.
Professor Coakley emphasised that the Agreement sidelined a fundamental principle of traditional Irish nationalism – that the constitutional future of Northern Ireland should be determined by separate decisions of the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic, not by a single all-island vote. And in any vote on Irish unity in Northern Ireland, the ‘sovereign’ power must act impartially, without specifying if this ‘sovereign’ power is the United Kingdom, Ireland or both. He pointed out that certain components of the Agreement had never been implemented, in particular the provisions of a bill of rights and for a consultative assembly. He suggested that the Agreement provided for a border in the Irish Sea, if the people decided.
He said that there was wide support for sticking with the Agreement. Brexit raised challenging questions to which the Agreement provided at least partial answers. It provided for dual citizenship and a common travel area and protection against the most damaging outcome of Brexit. In addition, it was an international treaty registered with the United Nations. He suggested that without the Agreement, the negotiations over Brexit might be much more difficult.
Bunreacht na hÉireann
Dr Martin Mansergh, former special advisor to Taoisigh and Minister of State, spoke about ‘Bunreacht na hÉireann: context and Development’. Dr Mansergh opened his address by commenting on how appropriate it had been for the Cabinet to hold a meeting in Derrynane house, in the home of the father of constitutional democracy in Ireland. He referred to DeValera’s arguments against O’Connell – his refusal to use violence to achieve his political aims and his attitude to the Irish language.
He said that Bunreacht na hÉireann was the republican constitution that had failed to materialise in 1922. It had been a centre piece of the Collins/DeValera agreement. It emphasised two aspects that distinguished Ireland from Britain – language and culture and Catholicism. He suggested that the preamble resembles the Unionist Covenant of 1912 and that Article 44 was inspired by Republican France. Its wording contains no trace of the Treaty or the Commonwealth, although the King continued to sign the credentials of Irish diplomats until Ireland was declared a Republic and left the Commonwealth in 1949. He said that Enda Kenny was right to secure EU agreement that Northern Ireland could become part of the EU if a majority decided in favour of Irish unity.
Dr Mansergh suggested that the biggest weakness of the Constitution was the reduction in the civil and economic rights of women. The clause that recognises women’s role in the home, which was backed by papal encyclicals, was used to justify the reduction in those rights. It was an example of church-state misogyny and should have been repealed long ago.
A lively question and answer session followed these contributions. Questions and comments included: how to improve women’s representation in government? Are women who stay at home to mind children penalised? (no, not if that is their choice) How far should quotas go in equalising representation? (as far as necessary in helping women break through the mechanisms of political systems and parties) how do people in the republic feel about Irish unity? (positive to a soft question but negative to paying for it) should SF take up their seats in Westminster (no – it would not bring about the changes people assume) is it time for a new church–state relationship as proposed by Leo Vradkar? Is it time to address the religious control of education (because a minority wants a particular change, should we make such a change? Do we want to substitute monolithic public control for church control of schools?)
The Daniel O’Connell Lecture
Professor Maurice Bric introduced Micheál Martin TD, leader of Fianna Fáil and former Minster of Education, Health, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Foreign Affairs and Olivia O’Leary, journalist and broadcaster and welcomed both to the School and Cahersiveen.
O’Connell’s non-violent legacy and the republican tradition
Olivia O’Leary asked Micheál Martin what was his view of Daniel O’Connell. Martin described O’Connell as a ‘colossus of Irish history’ who was the first person globally to mobilise the popular will to achieve political objectives and who began the Irish parliamentary tradition. An advocate of women’s rights and a mentor to the anti-slavery movement, he said that O’Connell had been marginalised in the early years of the state. In probing questions, Olivia O’Leary asked if there was a contradiction in Martin’s admiration of O’Connell’s achievements and commemorating the memory of Wolfe Tone and the violence of 1916. Martin replied that while no one should glorify the use of violence for political ends, we had to understand the context facing people such as the leaders of the Rising of 1916 and the loss of faith in institutions and the state at that time.
In relation to Brexit, he expressed his deep concern about the manner in which the Government was presenting the Irish position. The operation of the Belfast Agreement and the maintenance of peace on the island of Ireland required trust between two sovereign governments and the Brexit negotiations threatened to undermine that trust. He criticised the carelessness and recklessness of the language and the megaphone diplomacy of the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the ‘backstop’ provision. He said that they shouldn’t dramatise or oversell the backstop. In his view, there will be no hard Brexit and there will be a fudge on the ‘backstop’ pledge.
Martin described the issue of abortion as a very difficult one for many people. The 8th amendment to the Constitution had not stopped abortion in Ireland. He praised the Oireachtas Committee for playing a critical role in recommending a way forward that had the support of all parties in Dáil Éireann. He described the impact on his own views of meeting four mothers whose babies had been diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities and who had described their experiences of travelling to Britain for abortions and returning with the tiny corpses for burial. He acknowledged that many people voted ‘no’ reluctantly in the referendum, just as many voted ‘yes’ reluctantly.
In response to questions about the housing crisis, Micheál Martin identified the problem as the government’s attitude that the state should not build private or affordable housing and even that public housing should be delivered by the private sector. He said he had never seen the housing issue as bad as it is now. Even when the country was much poorer, we had the capacity through the local authorities to build public housing. Local authorities should be given a much greater role and their stock of housing should only be used for social housing. Since the market has failed to deliver sufficient houses, there may be a need for a national development agency to build houses. He described Fianna Fáil as a constitutional republican party with a left of centre programme and a belief in endeavour.
Olivia O’Leary asked Micheál Martin about Fianna Fáil’s decision to rule out partnership with Sinn Fein after the next election, while supporting that party being in power in Northern Ireland. Martin referred to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland in which power sharing was the only way to build trust among the divided communities. However, his concern about Sinn Fein was that non-elected, shadowy figures controlled the party and he asked what kind of message it would send if Fianna Fáil went into government with them after the next election. Pressed about his role in the financial crisis that brought the country to its knees, Martin admitted some domestic policies, particularly property subsidies, were ‘bonkers’. He said that many lessons have been learnt from that period and safeguards put in place to avoid making the same mistakes again. However, as a small open economy in a global world, Ireland faced many challenges, including President Trump’s new corporate tax regime which made it more attractive for U multi-nationals to repatriate profits to the US.
An open discussion followed. Issues raised were the sustainability of rural areas, the commitment to the Irish language and the future of the Gaeltacht, political interference in arts policy and grants, the removal of history as a core subject at secondary level, climate change and developing Cahersiveen’s weather station,
Sean Kelly’s life in the GAA
In Con Keating Park, Sheila Quigley of St Mary’s GAA Club introduced Sean Kelly, the 34th President of the GAA, and the only Kerryman ever to hold that position and MEP for the Ireland South constituency since 2009. He spoke about his life in the GAA, as a player and as an official – from chair of East Kerry Bord na nÓg in 1975 to County Chairman from 1987 –1997 – the difficult ‘famine years’ before Kerry won the Sam Maguire in 1997 and GAA President in 2003. He described how the difficult and controversial decision to open Croke Park to soccer and rugby was reached in 2005 and the benefits that decision had brought to the GAA, not least the opportunity it gave the Irish Rugby team in 2007 to beat England in Croke Park by 43 to 13! He also referred to the importance of the decision to allow officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to join the GAA so that the new police service would be acceptable to the nationalist population. He said that there was an urgent need to do more to promote weaker counties, to develop a more robust internal approach to anti-doping appropriate to an amateur sport, to increase the number of volunteers involved in the running of the GAA and to develop more flexible procedures for the use of GAA grounds to avoid a repetition of the difficulties highlighted by the Liam Millar tribute match. He was also in a position to inform the School that Micheál Martin, who was present for his talk, had played goalie for Nemo Rangers!
The second day of the Summer School took place in Derrynane House O’Connell’s Kerry home. The theme of the day was ‘O’Connell’s Kerry’ and explored South Kerry’s contribution to literature, architecture and opera.
Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire
Dr Ruth Barrington, a member of the Organising Committee, introduced Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail, Associate Professor of Irish in UCD who spoke about the great poem of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill (c.1743 -1800), and the Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, an aunt of Daniel O’Connell, composed the poem as a lament for her husband who was murdered in 1773 and it is one of the finest poems in the Irish language. Art Uí Laoghaire, a Catholic who had been educated on the Continent and was a captain in the Hungarian Hussars, a regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, returned to Ireland in the 1760s. He and Eibhlin eloped together and married in 1767. It was a time a strict laws against Catholic education, employment and ownership of land and assets and of sectarian disputes over property. Uí Laoghaire appears to have shown a reckless disregard for those laws and became embroiled in a row with the Sheriff of Cork over the purchase of a horse. He was ambushed and killed near his home in 1773. His blood stained body was found by Eiblín who was pregnant with their third child at the time.
The Caoineadh consists of 400 lines in which the grieving widow declares her unwavering love for her husband. It follows the traditional form of a lament in Gaelic literature by describing how well Uí Laoghaire looked after her as a husband and provided for her needs in their house near Macroom. She asks him to rise up and return to her as if he had never died. She describes his heroic traits as a husband and as a man, their community’s grief at his death and condemns his murderers. She portrays the chaos that follows his death and the destitution now facing her two children and her unborn baby. It draws on the myths of the Gaelic world of Ireland and Scotland, in particular the stories of Cuchulain and Deidre. The quality of the writing, the passion of a great love story and the raw grief of the poem still grip the imagination. The Caoineadh is the finest lament in Gaelic literature.
Flesk Castle – the Big House in the Era of O’Connell
Dr John Knightly, civil servant and local historian, spoke about Flesk Castle, a magnificent Gothic revival building in Killarney. The Castle was built in the 1820-30s by John Coltsman, from a wealthy Irish Catholic family with extensive Killarney connections that had made a fortune in trading wine and cotton between Portugal and Britain. He had homes in Paris and London and was part of an extensive London Irish Catholic network and built Flesk Castle as a summer home. He married a Cronin, which made him a distant in-law of the O’Connells. Flesk Castle is one of the most striking buildings built by a Catholic before the wave of church building began in the middle of the century. The Castle is in the Gothic revival style and was designed by James Chambers, an architect from Tralee. John Knightly made a strong case for the preservation of the Castle and its extensive gardens as part of the architectural heritage of South Kerry.
Travel in O’Connell’s Time
Dr Pat Wallace, former Director of the National Museum of Ireland, spoke about ‘Travelling in comfort and Discomfort in early-Nineteenth Century Ireland’. In 1810, a mail coach service between Cork and Killarney began for the first time, which was later extended to Tralee. A separate service between Tralee and Limerick developed a few years later. Castleisland became central to transport in Kerry as the town where traffic to Tralee and Killarney separated. It was unlikely that Daniel O’Connell ever took a mail coach as he had his own private coach. In his early career, it took five days by carriage to Dublin from Derrynane, with an average speed of 10 miles an hour. Each journey required a change of horse every 10 miles. For every journey, O’Connell wrote to each of the livery stables along the route, giving the estimated date and time of his arrival so that horses would be available without delay. Thanks to the preservation of a copy book kept by Bat Hartnett, who ran a livery stable in Abbeyfeale, details have survived of every coach that passed through Abbeyfeale in the years 1834-42. There are 800 entries, with the names of passengers, drivers and even those of horses! Most coaches had four horses, sometimes six and, according to the Abbeyfeale records, it was normal to hire two horses. The occupants were mostly army men, civil servants, clergymen – people with money and status. It was not until Bianconi’s coach routes developed that people with lesser means could afford to travel distances. Travel from Derrynane to Dublin in O’Connell’s took a long time, was expensive and uncomfortable – like a ball bearing in a shoebox.
Daniel O’Connell – Lives and Death
Emer Ring, of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick introduced Angela Bourke, Professor Emerita of Irish in UCD, who spoke about Jeremiah Curtin and his wife Alma and their visits to Kerry and the west of Ireland to collect folklore in the 1880s and 1890s. Curtin was a renowned Irish-American translator, folklorist and ethnologist. He married Alma Cardell in 1872. They had no children and no fixed abode as they were constantly travelling. Alma worked as Curtin’s secretary and devoted her life to promoting the career of her brilliant husband. At the time there was an intense international interest in folklore. They stayed in Cahersiveen from January to September 1893 collecting stories from local people. Padraig Ferriter was their guide and mentor. He brought story tellers to meet them and translated from the Irish. Curtin published three volumes of Irish folktales in the 1890s. In 1895, his best known book, Irish Tales of the Fairies and the Ghost World was published. It had an important legacy in the US as the stories were read to children. W.B. Yeats was influenced by Curtin’s account of the death of Cuchulain.
Professor Bourke commented that Curtin was not a scholar – he gave no details about who had given him the stories or how he collected them. He had no interest in the people who told him their stories. Alma Curtin wrote about the stories being ‘hoovered up’ and since their income depended on selling stories to a New York magazine, they worked hard on providing stories for the enjoyment of readers. See HERE for a copy of Professor Bourke’s paper.
O’Connell and the Lady Patriots
Mary O’Dowd, Professor of History at Queen’s University Belfast, spoke about women’s involvement in O’Connellite politics in the 1820s and 1830s. She referred to Francis Wheatley’s painting of Henry Grattan, in his red, Volunteer uniform, addressing the Irish House of Commons.
She drew attention to the number of women in the Gallery of the Commons watching proceedings, including one woman in a red, Volunteer uniform. The gallery was a space where women could observe political discourse. Many women would have been related to the MPs, with seats held by the family. Widows may also have controlled seats. Women were in constant attendance especially during the debates on the Act of Union with its momentous consequences for relationships between the two islands and the ruling classes.
It was reported that during O’Connell’s campaigns for Catholic Emancipation and Repeal, ‘women without end’ were in the gallery during public meetings. Hundreds of women and on occasions thousands were in the gallery to show their support for O’Connell. On some occasions, O’Connell asked men not to sit in the gallery of the Cornmarket building in Dublin to leave more room for women. However, it was not just in Dublin that women attended public meetings of the Catholic Association. Though out the country, meetings were held in churches and chapels and women were there and were not asked to leave. Why were women welcomed in such large numbers? One reason was money. Women were good at raising money for charitable causes. By the 1820s, middle class women were increasingly involved in charitable work, mostly with children. The Catholic Association invited women to get involved in female fund raising committees, the first of which was established in Drogheda. Women, from the most wealthy to the poorest servant girl, signed petitions for Emancipation. It is the earliest call to women to support a political cause.
The second reason for woman’s involvement was O’Connell’s skill in presenting Catholic Emancipation as more than a political campaign. He promoted it as a moral crusade that had the support of men, women and children. In relation to the later campaign for Repeal, the Monster meetings in would have been much more threatening and difficult to control if they had been all male. However, while women were welcome at meetings of the Catholic Association, they were there as subscribers, not as members.
In 1833, the Precursor Society was formed to campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union. Women could be admitted as full members of the Society. The logic behind this move was to encourage women to persuade their men to join and to vote for Repeal. The press at the time reported the excitement of many women that they could become members. It was the first political organisation to allow women become full members. The Society continued to play a fund raising role in the campaign for Repeal.
Most of O’Connell’s male contemporaries were not comfortable sharing a public platform with women. The issue came to ahead when the Anti-slavery League held an international meeting in London and the female delegates from the US were not permitted to speak from the platform. As an act of solidarity, O’Connell joined them in the gallery. In 1840 O’Connell commented about women attending public meetings of the Repeal Association that ‘although we are most happy in being cheered and honoured by their presence amongst us, still they are not considered being present’. It became a breach of the rules to address women from the platform at Repeal Association meetings, which suggests nervousness about the large numbers of women attending meetings. Even if there were limits to the role they could play, O’Connell’s was the first political movement to involve women.
Michael Laffan, Professor Emeritus of History at UCD spoke about the death and funeral of Daniel O’Connell. He referred to the preference of many Irish people for funerals over weddings – funerals are more democratic! A funeral is a final public display of one’s position in society. The Irish excelled at political funerals under British rule. He quoted George Orwell who said that ‘who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’. A funeral can be a political statement – using the dead as a weapon against the powerful.
The tradition of political funerals in Ireland began with the death of Daniel O’Connell. He died in Genoa in 1847, a broken man, having failed to achieve Repeal and in despair about the impact of the Famine. His funeral was a massive affair that required detailed planning. He had been expected to die in Rome and preparations had been made there for his funeral. A two day oration was delivered in the Vatican in June 1847, celebrating his life and achievements. It took three months for O’Connell’s remains to be returned to Dublin, allowing time for detailed planning of the funeral arrangements in August. There was a three day delay in the journey in Chester where large crowds turned out to pay their respects and the cortege provided splendid theatre. In Dublin, the planning for the funeral was meticulous and was modelled on a Via Dolorosa, which provided an enduring template for later funerals such as those of McManus and Parnell. His coffin was carried on the triumphal car that had been built by Dublin tradesmen for his release from prison in 1845. The procession included archbishops, bishops, prominent people from every walk of life and 50 trades with their banners. Special trains brought people to Dublin and hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets as the cortege moved past. Subsequent political funerals compared their turn out to that of O’Connell’s funeral. To some extent, the Catholic Church took over the funeral and turned O’Connell into a Catholic hero. The only dissenting voices were those of the Young Ireland movement who contested his legacy. In death, as in life, O’Connell began a new age. A copy of Professor Laffan’s paper is available HERE.
Iveragh and Irish Opera
The O’Connell School, which basked all day in sunshine in Derrynane House, ended on a high note. Harry White, Professor of Music in UCD introduced Dr Gavan Ring, renowned baritone, actor and recitalist. Dr Ring, who is from Cahersiveen, completed his doctoral dissertation on Robert O’Dwyer’s Irish language opera, Eithne. He recounted the efforts of composers to develop an Irish national opera in the early years of the 20th century as part of the Gaelic revival. He spoke in particular about the opera Muirgheis by Thomas O’Brien Butler and Eithne by Robert O’Dwyer. Muirgheis, which was first performed in 1903 and performed in New York in 1912, is set in Waterville – Butler’s ancestral home and the action takes place at the dawn of Christianity. Padraig Pearse was a member of a committee established to promote performances of the opera. O’Brien Butler died on the Lusitania in 1917. Eithne is considered the first opera in the Irish language and was performed in 1909. Its second performance was in the National Concert Hall on October 2017. Dr Ring enthralled the audience by singing arias from Muirgheis and by replaying highlights of the performance of Eithne in 2017, he which he had sung a leading role.
Mary O’Connor, Chair of the Organising Committee, closed the 2018 School by thanking the speakers, chairpersons and the audience and the Director, Professor Maurice Bric, for contributing to a very successful and enjoyable two days celebrating the legacy of Daniel O’Connell and the culture of South Kerry. On behalf of the Organising Committee, she thanked the sponsors of the School – the Office of Public Works, Kerry County Council, Cahersiveen Library, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dermot and Shiovan Walsh, Supervalue Cahersiveen, the Glasnevin Trust and Fexco. She paid tribute to enthusiasm and dedication of the Organising Committee, to the wonderful team in Cahersiveen Library and Derrynane House and to the local volunteers who help ensure that the programme of events ran seamlessly in Caherdaniel and Cahersiveen. She hoped to see everyone again at the 2019 School.
Memorial Mass for the O’Connell Family
The memorial mass for the O’Connell family took place on Sunday 2nd September in St Crohan’s Church, Caherdaniel and was celebrated by Fr Martin Spillane P.P. It was followed by refreshments in the parish hall.
The Daniel O’Connell Summer School 2019 will take place on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th August.
(1) Con Costello, The O’Connell Memorial Church and Cannon Brosnan, Tralee/Kerryman