Daniel O'Connell Summer School

Daniel O’Connell Summer School Report 2015

Daniel O’Connell Summer School, 28-29 August 2015

 

Report & Contents

Opening Address

The Worlds of Daniel O’Connell

Community organisation in South Kerry

  • Dr Brendan O’Keefe

The Daniel O’Connell Lecture

  • Professor Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork

Historical Tour of Cahersiveen

  • Junior Murphy

The Influence of Landscape, Agriculture and Sport in Iveragh

  • Frank O’Leary

Re-dedication of the Nuns’ Chapel, O’Connell Memorial Church

South Kerry in Revolution and Rebellion

O’Connell and his Impact Outside Ireland

Folklore of South Kerry

Closing Remarks

  • Minister Jimmy Deenihan

Concert of Traditional Music

  • Dr Janet Harbison and friends

Mass for the Deceased members

O’Connell Summer School 2016 – Fri 26th & Sat 27th August

Daniel O’Connell Summer School Report

Friday 28th August, the Library, Cahersiveen

Opening Address


Professor Maurice Bric, the Director of the Daniel O’Connell Summer School welcomed everyone to the 2015 School. He thanked the sponsors of the School and those who had become Friends of the School for their financial support. He said that the organising committee was very grateful to Kerry County Council and Tommy O’Connor, County Librarian for the use of the Library in which to hold the first day’s proceeding. He invited Mr Justice Hugh O’Flaherty to open proceedings.

Justice O’Flaherty referred to O’Connell’s formative years at the Bar, at a time when it was more like a bear pit than the polite world of today. There can be no doubt that his experience in this tough cauldron stood to O’Connell in his political career, although the outcome of the duel with D’Esterre haunted him to the end of his days. O’Connell’s great ambition was that the Irish people should have a place in the world, equal to every other nation. In that ambition, he was largely successful and would be pleased with what has been achieved since his time. (back to top)

The Worlds of Daniel O’Connell


Dr Ruth Barrington, a member of the organising committee, chaired the next session and introduced John P. McCarthy, Professor of History Emeritus at Fordham University New York, who delivered a paper on ‘Edmund Burke and Daniel O’Connell: Contrasting Champions of Catholic Emancipation’. Burke was born 50 years before O’Connell and throughout his political career, championed the grievances of the Irish Catholics. Burke objected to the disabilities that Catholics and dissenters suffered under the penal laws, including their exclusion from the law and from parliament. Burke supported each step taken by the Irish Parliament in the 1780s and 1790s towards the relief of Catholics, partly to ensure that Catholics would not be sympathetic to a French invasion of Ireland following the revolution. By the time of Burke’s death, Catholics enjoyed many of the liberties of their fellow Protestant subjects. However they could not be elected to parliament, and that challenge was taken up by Daniel O’Connell in his campaign for Catholic Emancipation. Text of Professor McCarthy’s paper is available here.

O’Connell and Education
Professor Daire Keogh, President of St Patrick’s College of Education, spoke about O’Connell and Education. Despite Balzac’s description of O’Connell as ‘the incarnation of a nation’, Professor Keogh suggested that O’Connell has been written out of Irish history and his ideas have gone from national discourse. O’Connell’s interest in education needs to be viewed in the context of his times. The Penal Laws did not prevent Catholic children from going to school but Catholics could not own or manage schools. While Catholics with money could arrange education for their children in their homes or abroad, there was no free education available for Catholics without means. Following the 1798 rebellion, in which 30,000 were killed in just one summer, and the Act of Union in 1800, the authorities were interested in education as a way of making the Irish more Protestant and more British. This led to a war for the hearts and minds of the Irish people in the early 19th century, in which the control of schools became a major battleground. While there was a broad coalition in favour of free, universal primary education for all children, there was disagreement on how to organise the teaching of denominational religion in those schools.

The Kildare Place Society, of which O’Connell was a member, campaigned for a non-denominational system of free, primary education for all children in the first decades of the 19th century. To get around the issue of denominational differences, the Society proposed that the Bible would be a text book in the schools but there would be no commentary provided. However, both O’Connell and the bishops opposed this proposal on the basis that a Catholic child would not be safe in a school with a bible and no guidance. What O’Connell demanded –and which still has resonance today – was that Catholics should have the same right to educate their own children as Church of Ireland parents enjoyed. This principle allowed O’Connell to build a campaign around education and to bring the Bishops with him. The campaign was successful and the national school system, with denominational patronage of schools, was established in 1831. In a speech to an estimated 100,000 people at the opening of the Christian Brothers School in Richmond St in 1829 (later named O’Connell Schools), O’Connell spoke of the themes of ‘faith and fatherland’, which become the dominant motto of Irish education into our own time. (back to top)

O’Connell and the Labour Movement
Dr Maura Cronin, Senior Lecturer, at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, spoke about O’Connell and the labour movement. In the first half of the 19th century, the ‘labour movement’ was more properly described as the ‘skilled trades’. These were the ‘seven year men’ – men who had learned their trade as printers, coopers, coach builders, butchers, carpenters etc in long apprenticeships. The membership of trade societies varied from trade to trade, will a high level of membership among printers. The trade societies were strongest in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. The historian Fergus D’Arcy had described the relationship between O’Connell and the skilled trades as ‘an uncommon liaison’. The reason for the love-hate relationship was a clash between the liberalism espoused by O’Connell and protectionism to which the trade societies were attached, on the one hand and their general support for his political goal of repeal of the Act of Union on the other.

O’Connell, a landlord in his own right, had little sympathy for the plight of the craftsmen of his day. O’Connell and the trade societies took opposing views on whether or not trained apprentices should be let go by their employers; the need for a minimum wage – O’Connell viewed the minimum wage as a restraint on trade – and compulsory union membership, to which O’Connell objected. Up to the 1830s, trade unionism was associated with violence as mechanisation advanced and threatened the livelihoods of some skilled trades. In Dublin and Cork there where violent attacks on employers and workers who were ‘scabs’, including the throwing of vitriol to disfigure and maim.

On the other hand, O’Connell and the skilled trades worked together in other areas. O’Connell’s personal body guard was composed of coal porters and butchers and may have prevented the development of Chartism in Ireland. Both O’Connell and the trade societies supported what today would be called a ‘buy Irish’ campaign led by the Irish manufacture movement following the cholera epidemic in the early 1830s. During O’Connell’s campaign for repeal of the Act of Union –which he saw as a precondition for the nation’s future prosperity – a procession of trade societies with their banners would meet him outside every town and city and lead him in to where he would make his address.

The trade societies were impatient with O’Connell but they underestimated the difficulties that he faced as a politician in securing repeal. The working class, whose political development was limited in the 1830s, did not understand that O’Connell had to play a game, in particular to support liberal measures of the Whigs, in order to advance his greater aim of repeal. (back to top)

Mapping the Landscape of South Kerry
After refreshments, Christy O’Connell, a member of the organising committee, introduced the next session and the first speaker, Dr Arnold Horner, of the School of Geography, University College Dublin, who addressed the School on ‘Alexander Nimmo: Mapping South Kerry in the early Nineteenth Century’. Nimmo was a Scot who had trained as a teacher and then as a civil engineer. He came to Kerry to work as a surveyor for the Bogs Commission which was set up in 1811, during the Napoleonic war, to investigate the feasibility of draining the bogs of Ireland to grow hemp and corn.

Nimmo set about making a map of Iveragh and other parts of Kerry and north Cork for the Commission and identifying potential opportunities for development. In seven months he had compiled the most detailed map of Iveragh then available, using his own knowledge of the terrain and the work of other map makers such as Henry Pelham and Murdoch McKenzie. He completed his work three decades before the Ordinance Survey mapped the area. However, the map Nimmo made was unwieldy, 10ft by 8ft in size – so large that the National Museum cut it into three strips in 1905. An engraved and printed map of the bogs of Iveragh was published in the parliamentary papers in 1814. One of the development projects he identified was the need for a road around the peninsula – the current ring of Kerry road. He also proposed a canal from Dereen bridge up the Inny river to bring limes stone and sea shells to fertilise the bogs to grow hemp and corn. The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 meant that this project was never pursued, unlike the road which was built in the 1830s.

The Nimmo map provides fascinating information on settlement patterns and the development of towns in Iveragh. Of the 900 buildings recorded on the map in Iveragh, 81 were in Ballinaskelligs, organised in little villages or groups of houses. In 1814, the present Main Street in Cahersiveen was not on the map and the recorded population around today’s Upper Street was 200. The town as we know it was built in the 1830s and 40s, probably as a result of the building of the new ‘ring’ road and the pressure of population. There was no Knightstown (or slate quarries on Valentia) or Waterville on the map.

This was the Iveragh that Daniel O’Connell would have known – rural, isolated, with access by land difficult and where roads were still to be built. (back to top)

Community organisation in South Kerry

Dr Brendan O’Keefe, Lecturer, Department of Geography, Mary Immaculate College of Education, University of Limerick spoke on the theme of ‘Communities, Landscape and Culture in Contemporary South Kerry’. Dr O’Keefe said that despite government promises of stronger local government and more community development, the situation had gone backwards in the past 25 years. The establishment of Irish Water is the latest of a series of developments that has weakened local government. Bolivia is the only other state in the world to have a single authority for water – the norm in other countries is for regions to have responsibility or for responsibility to be shared among a number of companies. He stressed the link between participation and representation in a democracy. For democracies to be strong, people must be prepared to participate by voting, paying their taxes and standing for public office. Participation thrives in decentralised societies with strong local communities. In international comparisons, only Portugal and Greece have as centralised a state as Ireland. In Sweden, local government is responsible for 30 government functions. In Ireland, the number is eight – and local government is losing water and waste management. And our units of local government are very large by the standards of the rest of Europe. It is not surprising given this situation, that there is a problem of trust between the population and the state.

Dr O’Keefe posed the question of how come we have vibrant communities and social order given the centralised nature of the state? The answer he suggested was that civil society was filling the gap. Community and voluntary groups were stepping in to fill the gaps left by the withdrawal of the state and were enabled, in an ad hoc way, by grants and support from government and European sources, such as the Leader programme. The contribution of community and voluntary groups should be recognised by official Ireland. He referred to the success of the South Kerry Loader Programme, which gave local people a say in issues that affected them. An independent evaluation had shown the programme to be efficient and effective in supporting communities. However, central government is interfering with the programme, insisting on a single template for governance when there is a need for different organisation in different areas. He referred to proposals in the government white paper ‘Putting People First’, about which there was no consultation, which provided the basis for the recent Local Government Act that abolished town councils and transferred Leader functions to local authorities. There had been strong, cross party and community opposition to the transfer of functions which had not been reflected in the national media. Even local authorities, such as Kerry County Council, passed motions opposing the transfer, although it did not prevent a LCDC being set up by the Council in 2015.

D O’Keefe referred to a survey of community activity in South Kerry that he and colleagues of the University of Limerick had undertaken. They had identified 243 civil groups in south Kerry, of which the team had contact with over 100. Nearly 300 citizens had been interviewed for the study. The medium number of people involved in community groups is 16, with more males than females and over representation of the middle aged. The annual turnover of the community groups is €12.7m, of which 25 per cent comes from state grants. The survey confirms the finding that those who give time to volunteering are more likely to vote in elections. Only 40 per cent trust local authorities, compared with 70 per cent in France and Austria and participants are more likely to trust EU than Dublin institutions.

In conclusion, Dr O’Keefe suggested that there is a mismatch between national policy and international best practice in relation to community development in Ireland. There was a lack of an evidence base in Ireland for many decisions. A recent EU evaluation had demonstrated that the effect of Irish government policy was towards increased centralisation. He suggested that there was a need to implement fully the EU’s Inspire Directive of 2007, which establishes an infrastructure for spatial information to support policies or activities which may have an impact on the environment, as it has the potential to increase transparency and accountability of Irish government to citizens. He called for the restoration of the Leader programme and autonomy for the Local Action Groups. (back to top)

The Daniel O’Connell Lecture

Professor Maurice Bric, Academic Director of the School made a presentation to Fr Fergal Ryan on behalf of all the organising committee for his great support and work for the School as a member of the committee and wished him well in his new parish of Beaufort.

Professor Maurice Bric then introduced Professor Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork and invited him to deliver the 2015 Daniel O’Connell lecture. Professor Murphy referred to the move by Sir Robert Peel to undermine O’Connell and the Catholic hierarchy in the 1840s and respond to the growing demand for access to university education outside Dublin, by building the Queen’s Colleges in Cork, Galway and Belfast and to run them on a non-denominational basis. University College Cork was built during the Great Famine to a design ‘fit to grace the High Street of Oxford’ and formally opened by Queen Victoria in 1849. All appointments to the University were made by Dublin Castle. The first President was Sir Robert Kane, who held the position from 1845 to 1873. With only 200 students, the staff student ratio was better than present day Harvard’s. One of the most distinguished appointments as professor of mathematics was George Boole who, in his theory of logic, laid the intellectual foundations for the digital age.

By 1900, UCC had not developed much – only 270 students were registered, with most graduates being employed in the Indian imperial service. The president from 1897-1904 was Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, who was described as a ‘Castle Catholic’ and who only visited the campus for two weeks every year. It was during this period that the College crest was adopted – where Finbarr taught, let Munster learn – although historians now say that Finbarr did not teach in Cork! The College began to develop rapidly under the presidency of Alfred O Rahilly (1943-54) who redefined the college as a national institution. He also promoted adult and continuing education, including programmes in Kerry. Cork University Press was founded, cultural connections with the city and region established and the College developed expertise in economic activities relevant to the region, including dairy science. By 1954, the number of students had grown to 1,000; by 2005, the number was 17,000 and this year the number is 21,000. In the 1990s, the College was still predominantly a teaching institution. Thanks to the generosity of Chuck Feeney and the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Irish government and the universities embraced research and post graduate studies. Today UCC has 3,500 post graduate students, of which 1.200 are studying for a PhD and it is one of the strongest research performing universities in the country. One half of its staff is from overseas and its student population comes from 102 countries. Its graduates are to be found in leading positions at home and abroad in academia, government, business, sport and science policy.

Professor Murphy spoke of the ‘virus’ of university rankings, invented by the Chinese using crude and bizarre measures to judge the success or otherwise of a university’s output. He said that it made no sense for Irish universities to try to compete with Harvard – the annual revenue available to Harvard (€3.9bn) was more than twice the total available (€1.5bn) available to all Irish universities. In UCC, they had defined their mission as serving the region to world class standards – producing graduates who were employable locally and globally and a focus on research that addresses regional societal needs. Data from a number of sources suggested that UCC was succeeding in this mission.

Professor Murphy suggested that all Irish universities have performed well, given the funding challenges of the past few years and the increasing demand for third level education. However, they could perform better if three issues were addressed – greater respect for the autonomy of universities and a reduction in the excessive regulation by central government of university affairs; the need to find a better and fairer way of resourcing third level education – the report of the group chaired by Peter Casalls is awaited – and ensuring that the research centres funded by Science Foundation Ireland remain an integral part of the universities. He commented that there was a strong economic case for greater autonomy to universities to achieve their mission, for example, every 1,000 overseas students attracted to Ireland created 400 jobs. However, the universities needed the freedom to invest in facilities to attract these students, against strong international competition. (back to top)

The Historical Legacy of Cahersiveen

Following the O’Connell lecture, Junior Murphy, a member of the organising committee, led a tour of Cahersiveen that included a visit to the recently refurbished former police barracks with an exhibition of the life of Daniel O’Connell, the Penal Law church and the Abbey where the parents of O’Connell are buried. (back to top)

The Influence of Landscape, Agriculture and Sport in Iveragh


The Summer School reconvened at 17.15 in Con Keating GAA Club where Junior Murphy, Vice President welcomed everyone and James Sullivan, St Mary’s GAA Club introduced the speaker, Frank O’Leary, Veterinary Surgeon and former St Mary’s and County footballer. Frank spoke of what is known about the earliest history of Iveragh, about the different invasions, the connections with Greece and Spain and in particular about the Milesians who introduced farming to Kerry, along with the Kerry cow and the hobby pony. He mentioned an extraordinary experience he had had at one of the Milesian stone alignments in Waterville. He had established that the stone alignment marked the winter solstice and had returned in the early hours of the 21st June to see if there was an alignment on the shortest night. As he waited in the gloom for the dawn to break, more than a dozen hares began dancing in a loose circle around the stones. While the hares wee dancing, a bullock arrived on the scene, went down on his forelegs and began nodding to the hares who reciprocated with similar nodding gestures. It was one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable events of his life.

He spoke about how agriculture in Iveragh had changed in his time – the reduction in the number of farmers in Iveragh, the challenges of farming when he first practised as a vet and the greater level of resources available today to those who continued to farm. He referred to the importance of sport to the people of the area and the great achievements of so many in football, swimming and athletics. (back to top)

Re-dedication of the Nuns’ Chapel, O’Connell Memorial Church


At 19.30, Fr Niall Howard con-celebrated mass in the O’Connell Memorial Church and rededicated the Nuns’ Chapel. A large number of Presentation sisters from all over Ireland attended and participated in the service. The Presentation sisters first came to Cahersiveen in the 1830s and opened a school, with the support of Daniel O’Connell, and the Nuns’ Chapel was their place of prayer in the Church. The ceremony was followed by a reception in the Ring of Kerry Hotel. (back to top)

Saturday 29 August Derrynane House, Caherdaniel

The second day of the Summer School opened with a warm welcome to Derrynane House by Adrian Corcoran of the OPW.

South Kerry in Revolution and Rebellion

Partition and John Redmond’s Cahersiveen Policy
Fr Tony Gaughan, historian and author, chaired the next session and introduced Dr Conor Mulvagh, Department of History, UCD who spoke about Partition and John Redmond’s Cahersiveen Policy. On 28 September 1913, John Redmond, leader of the Irish Party spoke at a public meeting in Cahersiveen, on a specially constructed platform outside the Carnegie Library, at which thousands of people attended. He was led into the town by a procession of horsemen and bands and was joined by the four Irish Party MPs for Kerry. The choice of town, the procession and the public meeting left no one in any doubt that Redmond was the united leader of nationalist Ireland and of the Irish race abroad, in a direct line to Daniel O’Connell. The occasion provided the opportunity to outline the Irish party’s position on Home Rule, which was on the statute books but postponed until the end of the war, and its opposition to partition of the island. The speech was delivered four days after the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Council which claimed to be the provisional government of Ulster in the event of Home Rule being implemented and a day after Edward Carson organised a rally in Belfast in which 12,000 Ulster Volunteers marched. In his speech, Redmond reaffirmed his party’s position in support of a constitutionally created, all-island Home Rule government and offered no concessions to those who favoured partition. The speech became known as the ‘Cahersiveen policy’. In retrospect, we can see that the Cahersiveen policy was no policy at all as it did not acknowledge the depths of feeling and opposition to Home Rule in Ulster. The British government was alarmed by the scale of military preparations in Ulster and by the threat of mutiny by British troops in Ireland and was in a mood for compromise. The leadership of the Irish party had already conceded in private the possibility of a time-limited partition of the island and the Cahersiveen speech was a refusal to make any further concessions to unionism. The full text of Dr Mulvagh’s paper is available here.
(back to top)

South Kerry’s Revolutionary Generation
Dr Tim Horgan, Ophthalmologist and author, spoke about the contribution of people from south Kerry to the era of revolution in Ireland. They did not make their contribution locally but as part of the diaspora. Among those he spoke of were Fionán Lynch, who was captain of a volunteer brigade that served in the Four Courts during the 1916 Rising, was sentenced to death (commuted) and became a Brigadier General in the Free State Army ; Denis ‘Diny’ Daly of Cahersiveen who fought in the GPO in 1916; JJ O’Ceallaigh, better known under his nom de plume Scelig’ who was a member of the Gaelic League and became editor of the Catholic Bulletin which published moving and influential descriptions of the 1916 leaders.; Tomás Ó Donnchadha who fought in the GPO in 1916 and was elected a TD in the 1920s; Kathleen O’Connell from Caherdaniel who became DeValera’s personal secretary in the US and worked with him until 1956; Tom Clifford who fought in the Royal College of Surgeons in 1916; Mortimer O’Connell of Ballinaskelligs who was arrested in 1920 and subsequently served as Clerk of the Dáil; James Sugrue who founded Sinn Fein in Listowel in 1910 and was badly beaten by the Black and Tans; Donal (Don) Casey and Dr Ada English of Cahersiveen. (back to top)

Albinia Lucy Broderick
Pádraig Ó Conchubhair, Ballylongford, spoke about the life of Albinia Lucy Broderick. He said that nothing in the first thirty years of her life could have predicted how she would live her last 60 years. Her father was Viscount Middleton, from one of the most conservative and unionist families in Britain. Following a conventional upper class upbringing and early life, she decided to train as a nurse in a workhouse hospital in her early thirties. She studied midwifery in the Rotunda in 1903-5. Her training brought her in contact with the poor and the sick. She also joined the Irish League, learned Irish and donated £200 towards the publication of Dineen’s dictionary of the Irish language. She acquired 14 acres of land at Coad, near Castlecove, from the Congested District Board where she built a sanatorium and hospital, which she named Baile an Cunaithe, at a cost of £11,000. However, the buildings never functioned as a hospital and remain a monument to idealism. The 1916 Rising was a major event in her life. She became an extreme republican, opposed the Treaty and was wounded in the leg by a Free State patrol. She was disappointed to have recovered as she would like the Free State government to have explained how they killed an unarmed woman! Following her arrest for republican activities, she went on hunger strike and was released after 15 days. She closed her hospital when she was 83, giving the equipment to charity and selling the timber and slate. She died in 1955 at the age of 93. Her funeral, which was in Sneem, was attended by aide de camp of President Sean T O’Ceallaigh. Her coffin was carried by surviving republicans and John Joe Sheehy gave an oration and unveiled a monument to her. She left her estate to ‘the republicans of her time’ and the will was contested in several court cases by various categories of republicans. In 1974, the High Court declared the will ‘void for remoteness’. Her descendents have never pursued their claim to the site and a proposal to develop a GAA pitch on the site failed to gain the support of the whole community. (back to top)

O’Connell and his Worlds, continued

Irish Influence in Europe before O’Connell
Due to a bereavement, Dr Fionnghula Sweeney was unable to attend the Summer School and deliver her paper on ‘O Connell and Frederick Douglass’. Instead, Dr Declan Downey, Department of History, UCD, delivered a paper on ‘Classicism and Courtiers in the Courts of Europe in the century before the Liberator’. Dr Downey spoke about the ease with which the sons, and occasionally daughters, of Irish Catholic families penetrated the courts of Vienna, Madrid and Versailles in the century before O’Connell. They made their mark on the battlefield, at the negotiating table, in the chancellery and in the bedroom. Their success was grounded in an education in the classics, fluency in Latin and mastery of European languages. They also required proof of their pedigree in Catholicism. They were committed to the ruling dynasty they served, either Hapsburg or Bourbon. Among the most successful of these courtiers were Daniel O’Mahony of Dromore, Killarney who became a French Lieutenant General and Chancellor to the first Bourbon King of Spain and who died in 1714; Richard Wall of Kilmallock who, after a successful military career, became Spanish Ambassador to Britain and Prime Minister of Spain in the middle of the 18th century; Alexandro O’Reilly of Cavan who became a counsellor to King Charles 111 of Spain and Governor of Cadiz; Ambrosio O’Higgins of Sligo who became a Marquez and Governor of Peru – he was the father of Bernardo O’Higgins who became the Liberator of Chile; Field Marshall Maurice de Lacy who was ennobled by the Austrian Empress and took the title of his home place, Askeaton; Maximilian von Brown who was awarded Austria’s highest honour, the Golden Fleece; Cornelius MacHenry who became secretary to the Empress Catherine; Marie Louise O’Murphy who, in 1753, became the mistress of Louis XV; Lucy Dillon who recorded life at Versailles in the last days of Louis XVI; Abbé Edgeworth who provided consolation to the same Louis before his execution.

The O’Connell family counted one of the most successful émigrés among its number – Count Daniel O’Connell, brother of Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell and uncle of Daniel the Liberator. Count Daniel became a Field Marshall in the French army and was appointed Master of Falconry at Versailles. That position gave him unrestricted access to the French King. Count Daniel and his brother Maurice corresponded about the most suitable schools for their nephews, Daniel and Maurice. As well as a good grounding in Latin, Greek and mathematics, the boys needed to learn to communicate well in Latin and French and to have ‘savoir faire’ – social skills such as ‘modesty, affability and delicate attention to the ladies’ and to avoid excessive drinking. Most well off Munster Catholic families employed a Latin tutor, typically a graduate of the Sorbonne, Toulouse or Monpellier universities. Father Patrick O’Grady, who spoke Latin, French and Irish but no English was tutor to the O’Connell boys and prepared them for the next stage of their education. Count Daniel recommended the school at St Omer in northern France and it was there that both boys were sent and from which they fled the violence of the French Revolution.

O’Connell and Glasnevin Cemetery
John Green, Chair of the Glasnevin Trust, spoke about O’Connell’s role in establishing Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin in the 1830s, which was sparked by the refusal of Archbishop McGee, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin to allow funeral rights for a Catholic in a Church of Ireland cemetery. O’Connell’s response was that Catholics needed a cemetery where they could bury their bones with dignity. He insisted that such a cemetery be open to all denominations and none – a radical notion at the time. Today, Glasnevin is the main burial place of Dubliners of all denominations and none but it is also a growing part of our heritage tourism.

In 2005, the cemetery was neglected and posed serious insurance risks. Following an expert analysis, the Trust put a proposal to government to fund jointly the restoration of the cemetery at a cost of €25m over 10 years, which was accepted. The Trust built the visitor centre, restored the O’Connell monument and began offering tours of the cemetery. Over the past five years, the cemetery has become one of the major visitor attractions in Dublin and financially, the Trust is breaking even and may even make a small profit next year. He said that Glasnevin was the most inclusive cemetery in the world and was a microcosm of Irish history over the past 200 years. He invited those that had not yet visited the cemetery to do so and enjoy the treasures that it offers. (back to top)

Derrynane House and National Park
Chris O’Neill, of the OPW, spoke about Derrynane House, the Kerry home of Daniel O’Connell, which in an act of great generosity, was gifted to the State by the O’Connell family trust in 1964. It was the view from this house that O’ Connell described as the ‘wildest and most stupendous scenery of nature’. Today the house and over 1,000 acres of grounds form a National Historic Park under the stewardship of the OPW. There are between 25,000-30,000 visitors a year to the house and over 100,000 people visit the grounds each year. The Park is the site with the richest diversity of species in Ireland, with over 900 species of plants recorded. There are rare conifers growing and there are close connections with the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin and Edinburgh. There is 1.5k of shoreline, including a Blue Flag beach. There is a programme of improvements to the house and grounds in which €1.5m will be invested. This year the Summer House will be reroofed and opened to the public. Derrynane house and gardens offer a unique combination of history, geography and horticulture. A conservation management plan is being developed for the Park and Chris invited all interested to contribute to the content of the plan. (back to top)

O’Connell and his Impact Outside Ireland

O’Connell and Catholic Liberalism
Professor Aine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCC introduced the session on O’Connell his international impact and the first speaker, Professor Maurice Bric. Professor Bric reminded the audience that when Arcbishop József Mindszenty in a speech in Budapest in 1956 referred to Daniel O’Connell and his belief that no people should be deprived of their civil rights by an oppressive government, he did not need to explain to his listeners who O’Connell was, such was O’Connell’s reputation in central Europe. It was O’Connell’s view that civil rights should not be determined by one’s religious allegiance. He argued that the Penal Laws were not necessary to secure the state – Catholics could be loyal citizens. He saw loyalty to church and loyalty to state as two different things – a controversial distinction then and now. On that basis, he not only championed the cause of Catholics but also of Presbyterians and Jews.

His stance implied a second point – that there should be no state established church – either Catholic or Protestant – or tithes to support that Church, giving exclusive privileges to one religion over another. He opposed the proposal that Catholic priests be paid state salaries in 1812, insisting that priests should be supported by the voluntary offerings of their parishioners and remain free to criticise the state. These positions were contrary to policies being put in place all over Europe as church and state attempted to restore their pre-revolutionary positions after the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. With his ideas, O’Connell laid the foundations of Catholic liberalism in Europe. He greatly impressed Charles de Montalembert, the French politician and liberal thinker who came to Derrynane to spend a couple of weeks in O’Connell’s company. Spanish liberals also looked to him for inspiration – Spain drifted into civil war in the 1830s because of these very issues.

His commitment to the abolition of slavery also demonstrated his view that his politics transcended ‘class, creed, colour and country’. In 1831, his platform for election as an MP in Kerry were repeal and the abolition of negro slavery. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833 and O’Connell played a key role in bringing about its abolition. He played an active role in other reform associations pressing for a more humane empire, particularly for land reform in India. His stance on these issues won him a wider base of support in Westminster. However, his strong and principled opposition to slavery caused problems for his supporters in the United States, who argued that he was refusing to recognise the properly constituted laws of the US. By rejecting, O’Connell’s guidance on slavery, Irish Americans were asserting a view that they had a different view to his of Ireland’s future.

O’Connell’s legacy of Catholic liberalism is still relevant today – one can read echoes of his thought in Pope Francis’s first speech as Pope. (back to top)

O’Connell’s Impact on Britain
Dan Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to Britain, spoke about O’Connell’s impact on Britain. He referred to O’Connell as a man of genuine international standing to which no other nationalist leader of the nineteenth century came close. O’Connell served 17 years as a member of parliament in Westminster and was a prominent member of the Reform Club. The Reform Club has a magnificent portrait of him hanging on its wall. Ambassador Mulhall said that he was pleased to be associated with the instigation of an annual Daniel O’Connell lecture in the Irish Embassy in London, the first of which had been given in 2014 by Professor Patrick Geoghegan.

Ambassador Mulhall spoke about O’Connell’s attitude to Britain, which he described as ambivalent. While he admired the British monarchy, he resented the way he was treated an inferior because he was an Irish Catholic. He was looked down upon by people in the British establishment of much lesser ability than he. And yet he made a profound contribution to the evolution of British politics – every Catholic MP owes their position in Parliament to his achievement of Catholic Emancipation. He had a sharp, rhetorical tongue and is credited with introducing a high level of invective into British politics. While he may have overdone the rhetoric, he needed to have a sharp rhetorical elbow to expose those politicians who opposed his views. He was particularly scathing about Wellington, Stanley and Peel, all of whom served as Chief Secretary for Ireland as well as becoming Prime Minister. Despite his description of Wellington as a ‘villain with no heart or head’ and a ‘stuffed corporal’, it was Wellington who persuaded the reluctant King to concede Catholic Emancipation to stave of a violent conflict in Ireland. O’Connell famously described Sir Robert Peel as ‘Orange peel’ and as ‘full of cant’ but it was Peel who became O’Connell’s nemesis. As Chief Secretary, Peel banned the planned monster meeting in Clontarf in 1845. By calling O’Connell’s bluff, he did much to undermine his subsequent reputation.

The attitude to O’Connell of his political contemporise was mostly negative. Lord Melbourne, whom O’Connell kept in power for six years, described him and those he represented as a ‘violent and noisy people’. Stanley considered him to be a seditious influence and advocated his transportation. Despite O’Connell’s crucial role in the passing of the great Reform Act 1832, he had no support among the Whigs for repeal of the Act of Union. The reformer, Richard Cobden, was a great admirer of O’Connell but he doubted the wisdom of ‘arranging the inferior race against the superior’. Gladstone, however, described O’Connell as the greatest popular leader that ever lived.

Most British historians have ignored O’Connell and there has been little analysis of his achievements. However, more recently, Doulas Hurd, in his biography of Robert Peel, recognises Catholic Emancipation as one of the great developments in British political history. It was the first time that outside pressure brought abut reform.

It was O’Connell’s misfortune that there was no means by which repeal of the Act of union could have been conceded in the 1830s and 1840s. The British establishment was petrified at the prospect of mass political movement in Britain and Ireland and determined to crush it, by force if necessary. The Government was prepared to use force, not only to suppress the repeal movement in Ireland, but also to maintain order in England. A full copy of Amabassador Mulhall’s paper is available here. (back to top)

Folklore of South Kerry

Sean O’Connell, Folklorist
Padraig O’Conchubhair chaired the final session of the Summer School and introduced Professor Rionach Ui Ógain, Director, National Folklore Collection, UCD who spoke about the folklorist, Sean O’Connell. Sean O’Connell was born in Cill Rialig 1853 on a small farm. His mother died when he was 10 and he did not attend school. He married a local woman in 1882 and had 10 children. From an early age he was interested in stories, collected stories and thanks to his exceptional recall, became a respected story teller. He took a deep pleasure in telling his stories, each one taking up to an hour to tell, and they were full of artistry. His children transcribe some of his stories and had them published. O’Connell attracted the attention of language enthusiasts and folklorists. The world famous folklore collection in UCD might not have come about if the folklore collector and founder of the collection, Seamus Ó Duilearga had not met O’Connell. Ó Duilearga first met O’Connell in 1923 and began collecting his stories, mostly by pen and paper, in 1925. In 1928, thanks to a grant from the Royal Irish Academy, Ó Duilearga was able to record O’Connell on ediphone. O’Connell died in 1931. His stories are preserved in the National Folklore Collection. A full copy of Professor Ui Ógain’s paper is available here.

Folklore in the Classroom
Mícheál Ó Leidhin, Ballinaskelligs, spoke about how folklore can be used in the classroom. He spoke about the rich folklore of Uibh Ráthach, from masters of storytelling such as Sean O’Connell and Tadgh Ó Murchú to the Schools Collection of 1937/8 in which children were encouraged to collect stories from their families and neighbours. The south Kerry collection has been digitised at www.duchas.ie. There is also an excellent website for place names at www.logainn.ie. These resources link with the curriculum and give children tools to learn about their local areas and family genealogies, improve their language skills, involve parents and communities in their education and stimulate creativity and imagination. He suggested that the Daniel O’Connell School could leave a legacy in preserving and strengthening the folklore tradition by working with others to initiate a research and post graduate programme in the folklore of Uibh Ráthach.

Dan Murphy, Storyteller
Máire nic an Rí, Waterville and Kildare, spoke about Dan Murphy, the storyteller from Ballinaskelligs. She said that Dan Murphy, who was born in 1906 and died in 1993, was the last great story teller of his generation. He learnt his stories from his father and their home was known as a ‘rambling house’ because of the number of people who ‘marched’ there to hear the stories. His first story was collected in 1931 and his last stories recorded in 1993. Tadgh Ó Murchú collected 60,000 pages of stories, most of which were from Dan Murphy. They are preserved in the National Folklore collection.

Many of his stories were about the dead and beliefs about the dead. The stories assumed that another race lived in a parallel world to ours and God help any one who crossed their path. Fishing, will of the wisps and phantom boats were another theme of the stories. The stories emphasised the power of priests and the need for benevolence towards ones neighbours – and the troubles that might befall those who treated their neighbours badly. She suggested that the stories are a great resource for schools and that children should be encouraged to create new stories. (back to top)

Closing Remarks


Professor Maurice Bric introduced Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for the Diaspora and thanked him for his support for the Daniel O’Connell Summer School.

Minister Deenihan said how pleased he was to attend the School again and to see so many people participating. He welcomed the School and the recognition it was giving to Daniel O’Connell and his legacy. He thanked the organising committee for the time and effort they put into organising the School. He acknowledged the efforts of Ambassador Mulhall in organising the annual Daniel O’Connell lecture in the Irish Embassy in London and the unveiling of a plaque in Abermarle St by English Heritage on the house in which O’Connell stayed in 1832. In that year, O’Connell made 232 contributions to debates in the House of Commons, although the House only sat for 70 days. He said how pleased he was with the restoration of the Barracks in Cahersiveen and with the excellent exhibition about O’Connell. He said that there would be further work undertaken this year to stabilise the ruins of O’Connell’s birthplace in Carhan. He suggested that a statute of O’Connell should be erected in Cahersiveen and suggested that this idea be explored.

He said that he was constantly reminded in his contacts with the diaspora of O’Connell’s influence around the world. In New Foundland, his name is revered, partly because of O’Connell’s support for building a cathedral in St Johns. In Melbourne, there is a magnificent sculpture of O’Connell in the parliamentary buildings. In Europe, he is recognised as one of the founders of Christian democracy. He said that O’Connell is referred to where Ireland is spoken of.

Minister Deenihan concluded by thanking the OPW staff responsible for managing Derrynane House and gardens and referred to the ongoing project of improving access to the House and to the O’Connell collection. Mary O’Connor, Chair of the Organising Committee, thanked Minister Deenihan for his support for the School from the beginning and for the way in which took every opportunity to promote the Scholl at home and abroad. His endorsement not publicised the work of the School but it also gave all the volunteers a great sense of purpose.

On behalf of the Committee, she thanked the speakers, the chairpersons and the audience for a stimulating two days of analysis and comment. She thanked the members of the O’Connell family for their attendance. She paid tribute to Professor Maurice Bric for the excellent programme that he had crafted and the quality of speakers that he had invited. She said that the committee was delighted with the number of people attending and deeply grateful for the financial contributions that people had made. She thanked the sponsors of the school –

  • Kerry County Council, and in particular Joan McCarthy Head of Tourism Development, John Griffen and Mairead Downey for their support and all involved in the community tourism diaspora fund without whose continued support the school could not exist
  • Brian McCarthy of Fexco
  • Dermot Walsh of Supervalu Cahersiveen
  • John Green of The Glasnevin Trust
  • New Ireland Assurance
  • The businesses in our communities who have registered
  • All who have registered as Friends of the School

for helping to ensure the School continues and goes from strength to strength.

She thanked Mr Jerry O Connor of O’Donoghue & O’Connor Solicitors Cahersiveen for all his support and assistance to the School.

She expressed her gratitude to those who hosted the first day of the School in Cahersiveen – Tommy O Connor, Kerry County Librarian, John Breen Director of services and Noreen O Sullivan and her team; Kieran McCarty and his team in Fás; Rosaleen McCarthy and her wonderful team who looked after everyone so well; Michael Prendergast; and Cahersiveen Community Centre and the Shebeen Bar. She thanked Canon Kelly for his support and Fr Howard for his inspiring homily and all the clergy and team in the O ‘Connell Memorial Church She thanked St Mary’s GAA Club for providing the venue for Frank O Leary’s wonderful talk on Iveragh. She expressed her special thanks to Linda Murphy for all her work during the year.

She said that it was a great privilege to hold the second day the School in the Liberator’s home and expressed her deep sense of gratitude to the O’Connell family for donating this house and grounds to the State. She thanked the staff of the OPW – Chris O’Neill, Adrian Corcoran, Philomena O’Connor, Charlotte Hayden, Breda Casey, Mary Lyne and Anne Marie Moran not only not for hosting the School, but for the work they do everyday to tell the great history of Daniel O Connell and James O’Shea, Michael Moran, John Moran and Tim Brosnan who care for the wonderful garden and grounds which give great pleasure and solace to many. She expressed her gratitude to those who assisted in Derrynane with traffic management – James White and Michael O’Connor and Johnny O’Sullivan and all in Comh Choiste. She thanked Helen Wilson of Derrynane Inshore Rescue for being on standby in case of emergencies.

She referred to Dr Brendan O’Keefe’s address to the School in which he spoke of the great value of those who work tirelessly in our communities on a voluntary basis to do in many cases what local and central government should be doing. She said that the Caherdaniel community had in the past year lost one of the great volunteers at a very young age to cancer. This time last year, she had thanked Ita Corridan for the wonderful job she and her team in Ahamore tea rooms had done in catering for those attending the 2014 School. This year, it was with great sadness that she paid tribute to Ita’s great work in the community and sent heartfelt sympathy to Tom, Joe, Deidre, Eimar and Adam and to all the Corridan and Galvin families. She said that Ita would have been so proud of Deidre and all her team today in continuing her great business. Ita had been a great supporter of the School and was delighted that it was re-born. She made a point of attending the School in Cahersiveen and listened to all the lectures in Derrynane as she busily made everything happen. Solas na bhlaitheas uirthi. (back to top)

Concert of traditional music

At 20.00, Dr Janet Harbison, harpist and composer, with Michael O Halmhain of Inis Oirr on flute and Conor Gibbons, a tenor from Limerick, gave a most enjoyable concert of traditional music, interspersed with stories especially of the great Irish harpist of the 17th century, in the Community Centre, Caherdaniel. (back to top)

Mass for the deceased members of the O’Connell family

At 9.30 on Sunday, Dr Ray Browne, Bishop of Kerry celebrated mass in Caherdaniel parish church for deceased members of the O’Connell family, especially Ricarda Cunningham Daniels, a great, great, grand-daughter of the Liberator, who sadly passed away this year and who was a great and cherished friend of the Caherdaniel community. In his homily, Dr Browne spoke of the need for leaders such as Daniel O’Connell in today’s world to advocate on behalf of the excluded and down trodden and suggested that Pope Francis was providing that kind of leadership.
The organising committee would like to thank Noreen Curran, Olivia O’Leary and Anne Boland and all in the Caherdaniel parish hall for hosting the concert and the gathering after mass. (back to top)

Dates for the O’Connell School 2016


The Committee looks forward to the 2016 School which will take place on Friday the 26th & Saturday the 27th of August. Please watch this website for the programme. Until then, slán agus beannacht. (back to top)