The Daniel O’Connell Summer School was held in Cahersiveen and Derrynane, Co Kerry on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th August 2014. The programme is available HERE

Welcoming over 200 people to the opening session in The Library, Cahersiveen, the Director of the School, Professor Maurice Bric said that the purpose of the School was to explore the career of Daniel O’Connell, his achievements, the impact he had on his contemporaries and his legacy for our times. He said that the response to the 2013 School was most encouraging and the intention was to make the School an annual event. This year’s programme would examine the many worlds in which Daniel O’Connell made a lasting impact and the legacy of his achievements for our time. In this year of commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War, speakers would also focus on Ireland’s involvement in that war and its impact on Kerry. The challenges of commemorating historical events would also be addressed.

Professor Bric referred to the challenge of funding the School and thanked Minister Jimmy Deenihan and the Department of Arts and Culture which supported the 2013 School with a ‘Gathering’ grant. He regretted that there was no similar support for the School in 2014 and he was very grateful to all of those who had become Friends of the Summer School or who had contributed in other ways.


In introducing Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister of State for the Diaspora at the Department of the Taoiseach, Professor Bric referred to the Minister’s deep interest in Daniel O’Connell and his legacy and his personal support for the School.


Minister Deenihan spoke about the growing level of interest in O’Connell and his legacy, both in Ireland and aboard. He praised the work of this School and the Glasnevin Trust in promoting O’Connell’s memory. He mentioned in particular the Daniel O’Connell lecture being organised in London by Ambassador Dan Mulhall, the first one of which that would take place on Friday 17th October. He referred to the work done by the OPW in the past year to secure the remains of the house in which O’Connell was born at Carhan, close to Cahersiveen and he thanked the O’Connell family for their cooperation. Securing the remains was the first step towards a more substantial commemoration of O’Connell on the site. He said that he intended to use his position as Minister for the Diaspora to promote O’Connell’s legacy among Irish communities around the world and he encouraged all those interested in O’Connell to have their passports up to date as they might be invited to New York, Paris or Sydney to speak about him!

Daniel O’Connell and his Worlds

June-Ann O’Connell (Cahersiveen and Dublin) chaired the first session of the School. She introduced Gerard Lyne of the National Library of Ireland and an expert on the history of Kerry. He spoke about the O’Connell family in the 17th and 18th centuries, their dispossession under the Cromwellian settlement, the consolidation of their land holdings in the 18th century, the rich network of family contacts in continental armies and the particular business acumen of Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell, Daniel’s uncle and benefactor, who made a fortune in trading and smuggling. The letters and correspondence between members of the family that have come down to us throw a fascinating light on relationships and the challenges faced by the family.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy (Cork) of the High Court, described a number of legal cases in which O’Connell had been involved as defence counsel. Some of these concerned criminal sedition, the effect of which was to prohibit any criticism of the Government and its Irish administration. He had used his skills as a lawyer and orator to attack the Government, the judges and prosecuting counsel, which in some cases was not in the best interests of his client. From a legal standpoint, this was the most serious criticism made of O’Connell as a lawyer.

The title of Dr Grace Neville’s (Ballinaskelligs and Cork) paper was Daniel O’Connell – Food, Feast and Famine. Drawing on the extensive correspondence of O’Connell, she highlighted how important food was to him and to his wellbeing. He loved to eat and drink well with family and friends. Some of his orders for food and drink suggest that he kept a very well stocked larder and cellar. He recorded his political advancement in Britain by noting his invitation to dine with leading Whigs.  As the population of Ireland increased rapidly in the first half of the 19th century, he became increasingly concerned about the threat of famine. He predicted the devastating consequences of the potato failure of 1845 and used his position to highlight the urgency of government intervention. He died in 1847 just as the Great Famine was reaching a climax.

Ireland and Europe

Dermot McCarthy, former secretary to the Government, chaired this session of the school which focussed on the links between Ireland and Europe, in O’Connell’s time and in our own.

Dr Liam Chambers, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick spoke about the importance of the European connection to the O’Connell and many other Munster families in the 18th century. The links to Europe were primarily of three kinds –  military, commerce and intellectual. Since the 17th century, many young Irishmen from Kerry families, including the O’Connells, had made careers in the armies of Spain, France and the Austrian empire. However, by the late 18th centuries, the opportunities in the Spanish and French armies for Irish officers were disappearing and during the French revolution, ceased altogether. Daniel O’Connell’s uncle, Count Daniel O’Connell, a colonel in the French army, had to flee for his life to London and subsequently joined the British army, founding the Irish Guards. The commercial links were primarily connected to the wine trade, with a number of Irish negociants operating in French and Spanish ports, particularly Nantes. Importers and smugglers such as ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell were able to deal with these negociants when purchasing wine and spirits for their local markets. These trading links came under severe strain during the revolutionary wars as French chauvinism grew and foreigners were suspected of being spies. The intellectual links were mainly about education – of priests and of young men from wealthy Irish Catholic families. There were Irish colleges in most of the Catholic capitals of Europe, to which many young men were sent for their education. Others attended Catholic Schools established to cater for English Catholic boys. Daniel O’Connell and his brother were sent to such school in northern France just as the reign of terror was beginning and had to flee for their lives to London to escape arrest. Some of their class mates were not so lucky. Dr Chambers emphasised how disruptive the French Revolution and its aftermath was to Ireland’s European links and how increasingly during the 19th century, ambitious Catholic young men looked to Britain and the British empire for career opportunities.

Professor Brigid Laffan, (Cahersiveen and the European University Institute Florence) spoke about the remarkable transition in European politics since Daniel O’Connell’s time from a continent dominated by Great Powers to a European Union of 28 democratic states committed to ever closer union. The European Union, founded on the rule of law and drawing much of its inspiration from the same Christian Democratic principles that inspired O’Connell, stands “as a zone of peace and relative stability” in contrast to many regions bordering it. She referred to the dangers to European stability of the return of ‘geo-politics’, on the eastern and southern borders of the Union and the rise of militant and ‘medieval’ Islam, both within member states and in the Middle East. The distinction drawn in the Union up to now between internal security and external defence was breaking down ad Ireland needed to reconsider its attitude to defence of the Union. She was critical of the ‘Triple Lock’ on the deployment of Irish troops abroad which involves a resolution of the UN Security Council as well as a government decision and approval of the Oireachtas. Why, she asked, should the Irish government give Vladimir Putin a veto on where Irish troops should be deployed?

The Daniel O’Connell Lecture

The 2014 Daniel O’Connell lecture was delivered by Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh of NUI Galway. Professor Ó Tuathaigh referred to Daniel O’Connell as a man of many paradoxes – a devout Catholic and a free thinking liberal, a man steeped in Gaelic culture and a universalist – who imagined a future for the people of this island and the road opened before him.  He was the ‘man who took the genie out of the bottle of Irish politics’. His method of peacefully mobilising so many people to achieve the political goals of emancipation and repeal was his most remarkable achievement. He helped the poor and downtrodden ‘who should have known their place, to claim their place’. The engine of mobilisation of the people was critical to the political leverage he exercised over the British government – he was a ‘busted flush with it’. He had to lead public opinion in Ireland and he could never allow any rivals to challenge his position. O’Connell’s method of mobilising public opinion was very far from the clientelist politics of the 18th century and in this respect, he anticipated and shaped modern democratic politics.


The Historical Legacy of Cahersiveen

Junior Murphy (organiser of the School in Cahersiveen) led a tour of places in Cahersiveen that are associated with Daniel O’Connell and his family. The tour commenced at Carhan at the ruins of Daniel O’Connell’s birth place. Daniel was one of ten children and was born on August 6th 1775. His parents Morgan and Catherine (Mullane) had 600 acres of land and were farmers, traders and shopkeepers in nearby Cahersiveen. O’Connell was fostered out to the Moran family of Teeromoyle where he experienced a peasant’s life and the treatment of Catholics during the Penal Laws. Daniel was adopted by his uncle, Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ of Derrynane who paid for his education in France and London. Proceeding along the main road form Carhan to Cahersiveen, Junior pointed out the race course which was given to the local people by Daniel O’Connell. Next stop was the O’Connell memorial  church built in the late 19th century and opened on the December 14th 1902. The church was built of Newry granite and Castleisland limestone and is the only church dedicated to a lay man.

In the church grounds is the grave of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty. In Rome during World War II, the Monsignor organised an escape organisation for Allied POW’s and Jews. At the end of the war he had helped over 6,500 Jews, Americans and British soldiers escape from the Nazis. The tour continued to the Penal Church. Here Catholics, contrary to popular belief, were allowed to celebrate mass in Penal times. The building acted as the principal place of Catholic worship until 1823. In close proximity to the Penal Church is the Abbey of the Holy Cross. Following the reformation, the Abbey was the headquarters of the Protestant religion. It also contains the grave of Morgan and Catherine – the parents of Daniel O’Connell.


Mick O’Connell: Reminiscences of South Kerry

At the Con Keating GAA Park in Cahersiveen, Mick O’Connell (Valentia) gave a short talk on growing up in South Kerry during which he referred to the impact of the fishing industry and boating heritage of the area.


Most Reverend Dr Ray Browne DD, Bishop of Kerry, celebrated mass in the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church, Cahersiveen that evening. In his homily, Bishop Browne referred to the characteristics shared by the and Daniel O’Connell and the recently deceased Seamus Heaney. They were men of the people, their people. They were both opposed to violence in pursuit of political ends and they both used their voices to speak eloquently and their pens diligently in search of truth and justice. Bishop Browne referred to O’Connell as ‘flawed yet great – the Liberator left a deep imprint about dignity, freedom and power in the psyche of the Irish people’. He suggested that if  O’Connell were living today, he would have strong views about our liberty as a people in the face of new financial and political empires. He suggested that he would be vigorous in his outrage at the detachment of those in control from the sufferings of so many and would encourage the ordinary people to organise and make their voice heard. Bishop Browne said that there was a great moral responsibility on financial institutions – in whose branches portraits of O’Connell hung for so long – to serve the ordinary people of Ireland and that it was incumbent on the political establishment to deliver more significant relief to many families who are weighed down by enormous burdens of debt that are simply unsustainable.


Saturday 30 August, Derrynane House, Caherdaniel


Fr Fergal Ryan, Parish Priest of Caherdaniel, opened the second day of the School and welcomed everyone to Derrynane, the place where Daniel O’Connell found rest and inspiration throughout his busy life. On behalf of the Office of Public Works, Chris O’Neill welcomed the School to Derrynane House and said how pleased the OPW was to host the event.


Professor Joe Barry, Professor of Public Health at Trinity College, introduced the session on Ireland and the First World War and Professor Robert Gerwarth, Professor of Modern History in University College Dublin. Professor Gerwarth referred to the cataclysmic impact of the Great War on Europe and, through their empires, on the wider world. The European Great Powers were tied into a series of treaties, which once activated, drew all into war. There were many factors involved in the outbreak of war but the precipitating event was the Austro-Hungarian demand to the Serbian government in the summer of 1914 that the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand be tried in Austria or else it would declare war on Serbia. Serbia refused the Austrian demand, Austria declared war and Serbia called on its defensive treaty with Russia for protection. The Austrian’s looked to their treaty with Germany. Initially it looked as if the British would not get involved but when Germany invaded neutral Belgium with the purpose of attacking France, the British committed. British involvement meant that their empire was involved in fighting a war on fronts outside Europe and many soldiers were recruited in the dominions. In Ireland, public opinion was shocked by the atrocities committed by the German army in Belgium, which had elements of older religious wars, and with the passage of the Home Rule legislation in the summer of 1914, John Redmond felt confident enough to commit Irish nationalists to supporting the British war effort. Young Irish men were encouraged to join Irish regiments in the British army. Irish unionists, particularly those from Northern Ireland, joined different regiments. These regiments fought alongside each other at many famous battles, such as the Somme, and suffered heavy casualties.

Professor Gerwarth said that Ireland is not alone in its ambivalent attitude to commemoration of the First World War, even among those countries on the winning side. Russia, for example, was on the winning side but was overwhelmed by revolution in 1917. Russian involvement in the Great War was associated with the discredited former regime and commemoration was not part of the world view of the new, communist regime.

Tommy Martin MA (Castleisland) the author of The Kingdom in the Empire: A Portrait of Kerry During World War One, spoke about the impact of the Great War on Kerry. The declaration of war had immediate effects on Kerry – the trains were commandeered for troop movements and farmers were required to surrender most of their horses for the war effort. German and Austrian nationals in Kerry – mostly waiters in Killarney – were arrested and interned for the duration of the war. Tralee was the headquarters of the Munster Fusiliers and many young men from the county enthusiastically enlisted with the Fusiliers. An estimated 2,000 men volunteered for Irish regiments during the war and others may have joined British regiments. The demand for food for the troops increased agricultural prices and many Kerry farmers did well in the early years. However, in 1917, two threats disrupted agriculture. The British government was short of grain and farmers were required to grow grain crops on part of their land, a particular challenge given the land and climate of Kerry. It was also labour intensive and the threat of conscription in 1917 encouraged young men to emigrate to the United States, reducing the manpower on many farms. Opposition to the war effort grew, providing fertile ground for the political messages of Sinn Fein to grow. At the end of the war, agricultural prices collapsed, adding to the instability. By the time those Kerry men who had volunteered to fight in the war came home, they returned to a very different place and a political environment dominated by the struggle for independence. As far as he knew, the only memorials to the men who died in Kerry were in Protestant churches – which prompted a member of the audience to comment that there were memorials in at least two Catholic churches – Aghadoe and Glenbeigh.

Dr Ruth Barrington, a member of the organising committee, introduced the next session on History and Memory, Ireland 1980-1930. Dr Richard McElligot, part time lecturer in University College Dublin, spoke about the links between land reform and political activity in Ireland in the second half of the 19th century. The Land Acts transformed Ireland from a nation of insecure tenant farmers and a small number of large landlords to country of owner occupiers where the economic and political power of landlords was a spent force. The transfer of ownership of land was, and still is, unprecedented in these islands and was a major political achievement of the Irish Party and its leaders. This achievement has been obscured by their failure to secure Home Rule and by the decision of John Redmond to support the British war effort in 1914, a decision that had disastrous consequences for his party. Grievance over land was a subtext of the war of independence and Collins had to encourage his supporters to put their grievances aside until independence was secured, at which stage a land commission could be established to resolve outstanding issues. The casualties of the Land Acts were the landless labourers who increasingly had no place in Irish agriculture and who had little option but to emigrate.

Dr Tim Horgan (Tralee) joint editor of The Men will Talk to Me: Kerry Interviews by Ernie O’Malley, referred to the war of independence and civil war in Kerry and spoke in particular about how those who died on the republican side in the Civil War have been commemorated throughout the county. Many memorials have been erected to those who died, the most prominent being the statue of the soldier in Cahersiveen which was unveiled in 1959 on which the names of those republicans from the area killed during the civil war have been inscribed.  He regretted that the contribution of these men and the ideals for which they died were not more widely honoured in the country.

Professor Mary Daly, University College Dublin, President of the Royal Irish Academy and member of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Commemoration, spoke about the challenges of commemorating historical events, particularly ones that are contested today. As a country, we were in a decade of commemoration of momentous events that led to the formation of an independent Irish state, partition of the island and civil war as well as other economic and social changes. She emphasised that commemoration is not history; historians could advise government on the historical dimension of events but politicians had to take other considerations into account when commemorating events. The story of state commemoration of the Easter Rising illustrated this point. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had been criticised for ended the annual state commemoration of the Easter Rising but the Rising had not been commemorated every year. She said that the first commemoration of the events of Easter Week 1916 was not held until the mid 1930s, when De Valera felt confident enough to mark the occasion. Commemorations were subsequently intermittent. The commemoration in 1966 stood out because it was the 50th anniversary and television was used effectively to capture the memories of those participants who were still alive. Annual commemorations ceased in the early 1970s because of the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland and a fear that such occasions provided legitimacy for the republican campaign to unite Ireland by force. The history of commemorating the Easter Rising illustrates the difficulty of remembering events that still have current significance. Professor Daly referred to the fact that Ireland has no national day of independence, unlike many other countries that celebrate the birth of their states. The Irish national day, St Patrick’s Day, is a celebration of identity, not of statehood. She emphasised that commemoration can also heal wounds created many decades before  The commemoration of the Easter Rising in 1935 was the first time that participants had come together after the divisions of the Civil War and it had helped to repair relationships. The controversy over the attendance by the British Royal Family at the events to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising demonstrates the difficulty of getting the balance right between history and commemoration.

The last session of the Summer School, on Education – Then and Now, was introduced by Mr John O’Connor, Principal of Colaiste na Sceilge, Cahersiveen.  Mr O’Connor described Colaiste na Sceilge as a co-educational, non-denominational community college with an enrolment of 530 students, committed to ensuring that students are afforded every opportunity to develop their full potential and diverse range of talents in a happy, safe and caring environment. He said that school is committed to developing people who are fair, caring, assertive and who are knowledgeable and appreciative of their locality: its beauty, history, culture and amenities; people who have a clear sense of their worth and the valuable role they can play in the betterment of their communities and people who can enjoy their lives to the full. Colaiste na Sceilge was a good example of the best that the Irish education offered pupils and their families.

Professor John Coolahan, Professor Emeritus of Education at NUI Maynooth and Chair of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector addressed the issue of Daniel O’Connell’s contribution to primary education in Ireland, a contribution that has never been fully acknowledged. The movement towards universal provision of primary education in Ireland by the state was endorsed in the report of a remarkable and far sighted Commission of Education in 1811. Various efforts were made to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission but the problem of how to accommodate denominational education within a state system remained a barrier to progress.  O’Connell brought energy and organisation to the campaign and linked it to the struggle for Emancipation. He also persuaded the Catholic bishops to support a non-denominational approach to primary schooling with denominational patronage or ownership of schools. The teaching of religion was to be separate from the curriculum. The national school system was introduced on that model in 1833, accompanied by intense activity to train teachers, develop a curriculum and build schools. Participation rates of both boys and girls in national schools rose rapidly, demonstrating the popularity of the initiative. Over time, the schools developed a denominational character until in the 1960s, the rules were changed to allow religion to be taught as part of the core curriculum. The principles of non-denominational education enunciated by O’Connell are still relevant today.

Professor Aine Hyland, Professor Emeritus of Education at University College spoke about the challenge of adapting the system of patronage or primary schools and the teaching of religion to the diversity of Irish life today. At present, 96 per cent of primary schools are under the patronage of the Catholic church and are in effect Catholic schools. Schools under new patrons have emerged in the past 30 years, including the Educate Together Schools and those established by Vocational Education Committees. These schools provide choice of primary schooling for parents who live in their catchment areas but their numbers are insufficient to satisfy demand for non-denominational education. The Catholic Church has said that it is prepared to divest itself of patronage of schools in areas where Catholic parents have the choice of a number of schools and the Forum on Patronage in Primary Schools has provided a pathway as to how this might be done. However, progress has been slow. Alongside the movement for denominational schools, there is also a growing demand for denominational schools to cater for minority religions such as Islam. There has also been debate about what should be taught about religion in the curriculum in non-denominational schools and whether sacramental formation should become the responsibility of parishes, rather than schools. Professor Hyland emphasised that although change was slow, new models are emerging and the process of change is underway.

Ms Mary O’Connor, Chair of the Organising Committee, brought proceedings of the Daniel O’Connell School 2014 to a close by thanking the speakers for their excellent presentations and the audience for its active engagement. She thanked all of those who had made the School such a success, including the staff of the Office of Public Works, the Library staff in Cahersiveen, the chairs of the sessions and all who had contributed financially and in other ways to the School. She looked forward to seeing everyone again at the School in 2015.

Fr Fergal Ryan PP celebrated the memorial mass for the O’Connell family in Caherdaniel church on Sunday 31st August at 9.30am. Jeanette Harbison played the harp during the mass and added a beautiful musical dimension to the celebration.

Words of Thanks

The Organising Committee of the Daniel O’Connell Summer School wish to thank all who supported the 2014 School in both communities of Cahersiveeen and Caherdaniel.We thank all who have become members and all who have generously contributed to supporting the School. We especially thank all those who gave of their time to make it happen

We would like to thank Kerry County Council , the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaelteacht, Derrynane Hotel & Holiday Homes, Walsh ‘s Supervalue Cahersiveen, Caherdaniel Parish Church and the Office of Public Works. We are very grateful for the encouragement and financial support of the Board and Management of the Glasnevin Trust. A special thanks to Mr George Moir, Director of National Monuments at the OPW for his presence at the School and for his support to the wonderful team at Derrynane House; to Chris O Neill, Park Superintendent; to Adrian Philomena and all the Guides; to James O Shea and all his team in the grounds. The Derrynane OPW team do a wonderful job welcoming visitors from all over the world and ensuring that they leave full of knowledge about The Liberator and inspired, as Daniel O Connell was, by the national beauty of Iveragh and of these grounds in the superbly maintained National Historic Park. We wish to say a special ‘thank you’ to Ita Corridan for the excellent food provided by her and her great team – how so many were catered for in such a short time with such delicious homemade food was amazing. To all who managed the car parking, we are very grateful.

We wish to say a special thank you to the wonderful Team in Cahersiveen Library and especially to Noreen O’Sullivan for all her support and cooperation.

To the wonderful ladies who gave us a five star experience with delicious home baking on our coffee break in Cahersiveen, we say thank you.

We would like to express our appreciation to the Cahersiveen Memorial Church and to those who provided the lovely entertainment with refreshments after Mass.

We express our gratitude to all the volunteers in Cahersiveen and Caherdaniel without whom the 2014 School could not have happened.

Our warmest thanks to the wonderful speakers and chairpersons who made the 2014 School such a stimulating event. Finally, our thanks to all those who attended the School and contributed to the excellent discussions.

Maurice Bric, Mary O’Connor, Junior Murphy, Phil O’Neill, Maria White, Fr. Fergal Ryan, Christy O’Connell, Ruth Barrington
The Daniel O’Connell Summer School Organising Committee