Daniel O'Connell Summer School

Daniel O’Connell Summer School Report 2017

Daniel O’Connell Summer School 25-26 August 2017

Report and Contents

Opening Remarks

The Fenians and their Impact on Ireland

South Kerry: Plans and Progress?

The Daniel O’Connell Lecture, 2017

The Voice of Croke Park

O’Connell and Ireland’s Other Leaders

O’Connell and the Gaelic Tradition

O’Connell and his Worlds in Kerry

Memorial Mass for the O’Connell Family

Friday 25th August 2017 The Library, Cahersiveen


Professor Maurice Bric welcomed everyone to the fifth annual Daniel O’Connell Summer School to continue the exploration of themes associated with O’Connell, his world and his legacy. He thanked the generosity of the sponsors of the School – Fexco, Supervalu, Kerry County Council, Tourism Ireland – and Kerry County Library for their support of the School.

Professor Bric referred to the plans to place a statute of Daniel O’Connell in Cahersiveen and to the competition to select the most appropriate memorial. Sixteen maquettes of the entries were on display in the Heritage Centre and he encouraged all to view them.

Opening Address


Professor Bric introduced the first speaker, Michéal Lehane, the Political Correspondent of RTE who was a native of Cahersiveen and who, he suggested, had a most dangerous job – interpreting Irish politics to viewers who were connoisseurs of politics.

Michéal referred to the similarity of the damaging consequences of the Brexit decision in Britain to those faced by O’Connell in his day. However, the country was much stronger facing those challenges than in O’Connell’s time. The question following the election in 2016 was whether a government could be formed. Much thinking had to be done before a government was formed and the ‘new politics’ emerged. There were lingering suspicions that hard decisions are being avoided. Are the right things being done? The crises in housing, the health service and university funding are just some of the issues that the government is struggling to address. However, he suggested that unexpected things are happening in Leinster House – ‘blink and you might miss them’, he said. He pointed to the adoption by Minister Michael Noonan of Peadar Doherty’s proposals to give more rights to consumers vis a vis financial institutions. He also mentioned the consensus reached by the Oireachtas Committee on reform of the health services and their Sláintecare proposals. He suggested that while there were big ideas around, there was not much sign of implementation. He spoke about how the reporting of politics had changed since Dan Boyle sent out his first political tweet eight years ago. The speed at which events were reported had been transformed but the core job of interpreting politics had not changed. He said that he welcomed opportunities such as the Summer School to catch up on O’Connell’s political thought and its replenishing qualities.

The Fenians and their Impact on Ireland

Michéal O Leidhin referred to the 150th anniversary of the Fenian uprising of 1867 and introduced Professor Vincent Comerford, Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Professor Comerford said that there was no contrivance in beginning a talk on the Fenians by referring to O’Connell, whose success depended on keeping many diverse interests contented. In the struggle for Emancipation, O’Connell had the support of the Catholic clergy, Whig landlords and many other landowners, tenant farmers, cottiers with no land and the artisans and labourers of Dublin. After 1840, his influence was weakened by the opposition of the Nation newspaper and the Young Ireland movement who challenged O’Connell’s approach to nationhood on ideological grounds. The horrors of the Rebellion of 1798 provided the backdrop to O’Connell’s career and his rejection of violence as a means to political ends. However, the Young Ireland poet, John Kells Ingram’s poem published in the Nation – Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 challenged O’Connell’s view of the Rebellion. Subsequent events – the Great Famine, O’Connell’s death in 1847, the outbreak of revolution in many European countries in 1848 changed the political landscape. In 1850, Ireland was a very different country; while the cottiers had been wiped out, the farmers with £12 valuation had a vote and were in a stronger position vis a vis the landlords. The Catholic Church was stronger. The retail trade took off with more shops in towns such as Skibbereen, Bantry, Kenmare, Killarney and Cahersiveen. The national school system produced able young men to work in the shops and to read newspapers. Hundreds of thousands of Irish had emigrated to the USA and the UK, carrying their resentment of the British government with them. Communication was revolutionised with the laying of the Atlantic cable from Valentia to New Foundland and news could be transmitted instantaneously. However, no political leader emerged in this period who could take advantage of these strengths in the way O’Connell had in a previous generation.

In 1858, an organisation known as the Fenian Brotherhood was formed by John Stephens and James O’Mahony to promote a rebellion in Ireland. They were of the view that Britain needed to be involved in another conflict with a European power interested in Ireland. However, anyone with a stake in the country was unlikely to support a revolution. The Church, in particular, feared a ‘godless’ revolution. However, the message of Stephens, who was a superb organiser, and O’Mahony appealed to young people with education but not property. Stephens let it be known that 1865 would be the year of revolution, then 1866, but nothing happened. On the 12th February 1967, a coastguard station was attacked and ‘diversions’ were planned for the 5th March. An attack on the barracks in Tallaght was repulsed by the military. As it turned out, the people who planned the rebellion had no intention of being in Ireland for the events and some of them gave evidence for the State in the subsequent trials. Those tried were mostly well meaning young men who were prepared to make sacrifices for their beliefs. Six people were sentenced to death but all were reprieved and released in a relatively short time.

On the 11th September 1867, a police man was shot in Manchester. On 23rd November, three men – Alan, Larkin and O’Brien – were hanged for the crime, but not before shouting ‘God save Ireland’ from the gallows. Irish opinion was taken aback at the executions of the ‘Manchester Martyrs’, after the leniency shown to the rebels in Ireland, and there was an outpouring of emotion, including requiem masses and mock funerals. The song ‘God save Ireland’ was penned and became popular. Politically, it was Gladstone and the Liberals who benefitted most, claiming 66 out of 105 Westminster seats in the next election, with Isaac Butt doing almost as well, paving the way for Parnell’s leadership of the Irish Party. Professor Comerford concluded by suggesting that it was the Fenians who gave a militant element to the nationalism founded by O’Connell.

South Kerry: Plans and Progress?


The development of South Kerry attracted a large audience to the Library in Cahersiveen. This session of the School was introduced by Dr Brendan O’Keeffe of Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick and author of Gaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh – Próifíl Dhéimeagrafach agus Socheachnamaíocha (www.dspace.mic.ul.ie) He referred to the findings of that research that showed the vibrancy of civil society in South Kerry but which also highlighted the need for better planning. There as a need to redress depopulation and provide support for local entrepreneurship and economic development in rural Kerry. Local groups have tremendous energy but they lack mechanisms to shape the planning process. He said that planning needed to be people centred and sustainable – socially, economically and environmentally. Planning, as a public good, merits time, consultation, investment and inclusivity. There needed to be a strong commitment of public bodies to the conversation and the outcome. A good starting point was to ask the question ‘what do we want the place to look like in 5-10 years time?’ He advocated a reduction in the bureaucratic burdens that have been placed on community groups, proper investment in rural services and the reversal of the cuts imposed on the community sector and to the rural development /LEADER fund. He called for greater supports for indigenous entrepreneurs, reliable and high-speed broadband connectivity and the celebration of the quality of life, heritage, culture and landscape of South Kerry. There was a disconnect between local and national government – national government was facilitating globalisation at the expense of local concerns. He suggested that questions needed to be asked about the policy of encouraging foreign direct investment, the business ethics of these firms and the political influence they exercised, at the expense of local enterprise. We should not rely on ‘spill over’ development in rural areas from firms based in the main cities. There was an overwhelming need for investment in rural regions, based on a vision of their potential and good evidence.

Dr O’Keefe’s paper is available HERE

Dr Jim Walsh, Professor of Geography at Maynooth University, presented an overview of the demographic and social changes in Kerry in recent decades. The population in Kerry in 2016 was 148,000, just below what it was in 1926. Population growth in the county in recent decades was only half that of the rest of the country. The populations of Killarney and Tralee were growing fast but not that of Listowel or Castleisland. Of the smaller towns, the populations of Dingle, Ballybunion, Killorglin and Kenmare were growing but not Cahersiveen. He highlighted the high average age of the Kerry population – 40 years, compared to 35 in Kildare and the relative absence of 20-24 year olds and of children under four. More positively, over 25 per cent of the population in Kerry now had a third level education and there had been a dramatic growth in the number of women in the workforce. He pointed out that Kerry was heavily dependent for employment on non-foreign direct investment such as tourism, agri-food and retailing, all sectors that would be impacted by Brexit.

He outlined what he described as the five phases of planning policy. Between 1972 and 1987, the emphasis was on the Common Agricultural Policy. Ireland opted to be treated as a single region for EU investment and there was little focus on regional or rural policies. Between 1987 and 1999, there was a strategic integration of rural and regional policies led by the EU but Ireland was still defined as single region. In 1999, the first white paper on the rural economy was published. From 2000-7, the focus was on reform of the CAP, with the EU co-funding rural development. These were the years of the Celtic Tiger, of uneven development and the publication of the National Spatial Strategy. After 2007, the years of austerity moved rural and regional planning off the agenda and the National Spatial Strategy was abandoned by government. Local government structures were changed, primarily to save costs. In 2014, rural development issues resurfaced. The CEDRA report let to the Action Plan for Rural Development and the creation of rural economic development zones. The linking of where people live and where they work was a small but tangible step towards better planning. The Action Plan has also helped to bring agencies together. However, with 270 actions and more than 40 implementing bodies, one can ask how strategic is the Action Plan. In Kerry, for example, in which of the 20 rural/urban areas is investment to take place? He suggested that there are two rural plans with little coordination between the two – an EU plan with generous support for agriculture and forestry and a national Action Plan with much less resources for other kinds of development.

He was critical of the absence of a national planning framework and its consequences – overdevelopment of some places and underdevelopment of others and the resulting long commutes to work. He suggested that there was a danger that in Kerry, Tralee and Killarney would lose out in economic development to the cities of Cork and Limerick. While collaboration and cooperation were encouraged, competition was often more effective in securing resources. He said an agenda for action – a post Brexit plan for Kerry, a medium term national development plan approved by the Oireachtas; a national planning framework to 2040; an alignment of sectoral strategies with placed based approaches that takes account of metrics other than economic; alignment of policies to support rural development at EU, national and local level; strong regional governance and the empowerment of civic society and leadership.

Moria Murell, Chief Executive of Kerry County Council, spoke about the role of the Council as a democratic body, leading the development of economic, social and community policy in Kerry. She said that she could not speak highly enough of South Kerry Partnership and the work they were doing to support development. Tourism, fin-tech and agri-tech had been identified as sectors with growth potential that needed investment. Kerry had the highest dependence of any county on tourism: one in five is employed in tourism and sustaining that level of jobs and income is going to be a challenge. While the census population of the county was close to 150,000, over two million visitors passed through the county each year, 75 per cent of which visited between May and October. The infrastructure – hotels, roads, water, and broadband – needed to provide for that number of people. A research and innovation centre in fin-tech was proposed for Killorglin to build on the expertise associated with Fexco. While Kerry was reasonably well connected by road and air, that was not the case with broadband. She said that she wanted Kerry to be the first county to benefit from the national roll out of broadband and was appointing a broadband officer for this purpose. She wanted to see meaningful and environmentally sustainable jobs created that would attract graduates in their 20s and 30s with young families. She commended Taste Kerry, Kerry Dark Skies, the proposed South Kerry Greenway and the Valentia UNESCO world heritage site bid as unique initiatives that would add great value to South Kerry.

Finbarr Bradley and Jim Kenneally, authors of The Irish Edge: how enterprises compete on authenticity and place spoke about the advantages of rural Kerry in a globalised world. Finbarr referred to the paradigm shift that had taken place from the days of mass produced goods for unlimited consumption to one where goods have a purpose and meaning and customers have an emotional relationship with the product they purchase. Companies that are part of something from the past but which extend to the future, that focus on the long term, on communities, values, well-being, with a deep sense of place, character and integrity and which create and sustain real value have a competitive advantage in this new age. He suggested that Kerry had a competitive advantage in this new industrial age since it has such a strong sense of identity, tradition and community. Jim Kenneally spoke of the success of Kerry Coop which, against the odds, grew into a global dairy producer thanks to the vision and determination of its leaders and the strength of the farming tradition in Kerry. Dairymaster was another example of a successful Kerry company that built on local strengths. Other examples of successful Irish companies rooted in tradition were Cooley Distillery and Aran Islands knitwear.

Finbarr Bradley’s paper is available HERE

The Daniel O’Connell Lecture, 2017


Professor Maurice Bric introduced John Bruton, former Taoiseach and EU Ambassador to the US A. He describe him as one of Ireland’s ‘public intellectuals’- a person who could draw on his experience of politics, business and public life to analyse problems facing the country and suggest ways of dealing with them. In front of a full house, John Bruton spoke of his affection and admiration for Daniel O’Connell. He admired O’Connell’s vision which extended far beyond Ireland – he supported the emancipation of the Jews and campaigned fearlessly for the abolition of slavery; he favoured a secret ballot in elections and the reform of Parliament; he opposed customs unions. He made financial sacrifices for the causes which he espoused – especially in his struggle for Repeal of the Act of Union. He had a deep aversion to politically motivated violence, in opposition to Thomas Davis who mythologised it. He knew that violence once started gets out of control. He believed in passive resistance and was the founder of mass political participation. He attempted to set up a parallel parliament and court system, providing a model that Sinn Fein followed in the early 1900s.

He suggested that in the spirit of O’Connell, Ireland must take responsibility for the big issues of our time – climate change, world hunger, security and migration and to do so through its membership of the EU. He reminded his audience of how well off the Irish were compared with the rest of the world – with an average income of €34,000 a year, Ireland is in the top 1 per cent in the world. Climate change threatened drought, starvation and migration for millions of the poorest people in the world. Some of the sophisticated arguments advanced to postpone action on climate change in this country reminded him of those used to postpone the abolition of slavery in O’Connell’s time.

In relation to migration, he suggested that it was Europe’s interest to encourage controlled migration to Europe. The population of Europe was declining faster than at any time since the Black Death in the 14th century while at the same time Africa could not provide enough jobs for all its young people. The average age in Europe is 40 while in Africa, it is half that. Europe needed an influx of young people if the social insurance systems were to survive. The EU should respond with enlightened self interest to the aspiration of so many of the brightest and best young people in Africa and Asia to live and work in Europe. He praised the efforts around Europe to integrate migrants into their host communities – including those of religious organisations and the GAA – and warned that segregation of migrants should be avoided at all costs. He suggested that the alienation and radicalisation of young Muslims in Europe was linked to the wider alienation of young people in Europe and called for better religious education in schools to allow young people make more mature judgements on religious issues.

John Bruton described O’Connell as a great European who was held in the highest regard by his European contempories for his commitment to religious liberty and for his skills as a political agitator and lawyer. O’Connell would be very much at home in today’s EU, which was a way of agreeing common rules of benefit to European citizens, with a common system for making and adjudicating those rules. He said that the European Court of Justice was essential to the EU, guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms set out in the Treaties.

Referring to Brexit, he said that the British position on trade was internally contradictory – you could not ‘take back control’ and be a member of a multinational rules-based, trading system. He said that Brexit could be traumatic and ‘cut a trench through this island’. O’Connell greatest achievement was to secure the right of Catholics to sit in Parliament. This year – 2017 – was the first since 1830 that there was no Catholic or nationalist representation in Westminster from an Irish constituency. He called on Sinn Fein to take their seats at Westminster and protect the interests of the island of Ireland in the Brexit debate. He suggested a transition period of six years was needed and that the European elections in 2019 would allow the British people an opportunity to review the consequences of their vote to leave the EU. He lamented the waste of time and talent of so many people in addressing the fall-out of Brexit. While Europe debated the Brexit divorce, the power and influence of China, with its executive coherence, was growing exponentially year by year. China was moving rapidly to implement its ‘one belt, one road’ which would link Beijing to Belmullet in an effort to promote its economic leadership in the world. How would Britain post Brexit deal with China’s ‘one belt, one road’ policy?

He raised the question of what the EU should do together post Brexit, as addressed in a recent Commission paper. While there were obvious things that EU should do together, such as protect Europe from terrorism through closer defence and security cooperation, there was no consensus on how to move forward. It was a similar story with environmental protection and energy security.

He suggested that O’Connell’s passion for human rights was still relevant to the present day debate in relation to the way we treat prisoners, to the right to life before birth and to end of life issues. He called for rational and collective action on these issues, as against the mob rule of social media.

Gerry Grogan – The Voice of Croke Park

Junior Murphy welcomed Gerry Grogan to St Mary’s GAA Club and introduced him as a native of Cahersiveen, the former Principal of Donaghamede National School in Dublin, a key figure behind the Cumann na mBun GAA league for 11/12 year olds, the head of PR/Communications for the GAA since 2003 and most famously as ‘the voice of Croke Park’.

Gerry said that he had once asked a class why Daniel O’Connell had been sent to France for his education. One smart student replied that it was because he needed more points in his Leaving Certificate! Gerry described his early, unhappy years in Dublin until he discovered teaching and qualified as a national school teacher. He realised how different the upbringing of so many children from deprived areas of Dublin was to the caring, spontaneous and outdoor childhood he had enjoyed in Cahersiveen. He had begun an exchange of teams between his school and St Mary’s to broaden the experiences of the Dublin kids and acknowledged the support of Mick O’Dwyer, Mick O’Connell and Jack O’Shea for the initiative. He praised the Mini Series which give the opportunity to 240 kids to play in Croke Park each year. The series now included wheelchair hurling! The Series had not only produced many of Dublin’s great footballers, hurling and camogie players but other great sportsmen such as Padraic Harrington, Paul McGinley, Niall Staunton and Denis Irwin.

In 2003, Sean Kelly (whom he described as the GAA’s bravest President) asked him to take the chair of the PR and Presentation Committee. He stressed the voluntary nature of his involvement with the GAA – a point that not everyone appreciated. He said that his preparations for a big game in Croke Park begin on the Thursday before with a preparatory meeting of over 60 people. A ‘movement plan’ is prepared in which everything that happens on the Sunday is timed to the minute, including his public announcements. On Saturday before the All-Ireland Football Final, he collects the Sam Maguire and brings the cup to RTE in Donnybrook for ‘Up for the Match’. After big matches, he organises meetings between journalists and the managers and captains of the two teams. Much of the analysis and comment in the sporting columns take shape as a result of these briefings.

Gerry said that the best description of him was that he was a ‘Kerry Blue’.

Saturday 26th August Derrynane House, Caherdaniel

O’Connell and Ireland’s Other Leaders

Mary O’Conner welcomed everyone to Derrynane House, especially the members of the O’Connell family. She thanked the OPW for hosting the second day of the Daniel O’Connell Summer School. Adrian Corcoran of the OPW said how pleased he and the team at Derrynane House were to support the School.

Gerry O’Connor, a solicitor from Cahersiveen, introduced Paul Gallagher SC who spoke about Daniel O’Connell and the Law. Paul referred to O’Connell’s intuitive understanding of the people and his ability to adjust his style of argument to their way of thinking and of his achievement of turning opposition to British rule into a constitutional movement. He was a champion of a people who had no champion; he gave respect to people who had no respect. He never sacrificed the people to the cause – the people were his cause and he protected them to the best of his ability. He contrasted O’Connell’s rapport with the people with the habits of tyrants – then and now – to conduct monologues over the heads of millions. O’Connell combined his intuitive rapport with the people with great rhetoric and oratorical flourishes. Alexander Douglas, the former American slave and campaigner against slavery, doubted the reports of O’Connell’s oratory but was completely persuaded when he heard O’Connell speak for one and a quarter hours. Douglas wrote that O’Connell’s sympathy extended all over this earth and commented on the magnificence of his words in support of humanity and freedom.

Paul Gallagher said that O’Connell had no peer in understanding what was important about the law – the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. In this sense he anticipated the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. O’Connell began his career at barrister in 1795 and despite having no connections and in the face of much prejudice, by 1813 was described as ‘the Eagle of the Bar’. No contemporary could match his combination of qualities – his understanding of the law, his power of advocacy and his ability to cross examine. He understood the fear of perjury and reluctance to make a damning disclosure. He was not intimidated by judges, who were particularly contemptuous of Catholic junior. He asked inadmissible questions, expressing surprise when they were challenged and addressed speeches to the jury. He would even resort to trickery to assist a client’s case. At the height of his career, he earned £8,000 a year, the largest sum ever earned in the outer bar. He remained a junior counsel his entire active career, becoming a senior counsel only in 1831.

O’Connell had many great cases – the Magee case which involved a libel against the Duke of Richmond and the Doneraile Conspiracy cases being famous examples. His success in persuading the jury not to convict his client of conspiracy to murder landlords in Doneraile in 1829 represented his apogee of his career at the bar. But great as these achievements were, they were nothing by comparison with his legacy of constitutional nationalism, respect for the rule of law and for human rights. The people were his cause and Irish people should be proud that no person of his age and few since have left such a legacy to their people.

Dr Síle McGuckian presented a paper on Daniel O’Connell’s relationship with Dublin Castle in the 1820s. Dr McGuckian said that in 1820, O’Connell had little to show for a decade of agitation for Catholic Emancipation. The British Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool opposed Emancipation and the government’s representatives in Dublin Castle were strongly Protestant and opposed to any further concessions to Catholics. However, the atmosphere changed in 1820 when King George IV adopted a policy of conciliation towards Ireland. The King visited Ireland in 1821 and was well received, including by O’Connell who was loyal to the crown. In 1821, there was a clean sweep of top officials in Dublin Castle, with the appointment of Richard Marcus Wellesley, a brother of the Duke of Wellington, as Lord Lieutenant and William Plunkett as Chief Secretary. Both men had sympathy for the Catholic population and believed that greater equality and prosperity were central to Ireland’s welfare and to securing Irish Catholic loyalty to the Crown. One of Wellesley’s first acts as Lord Lieutenant was to suspend Orange celebrations in Dublin. The Orangemen turned on him and defied the ban; their leaders were arrested and tried, but not convicted.

Recognising the change in politics in Dublin Castle, O’Connell led Catholics in making loyal addresses to the Lord Lieutenant and for a short time, attended functions in Dublin Castle. In 1823, he founded the Catholic Association to pursue Catholic Emancipation. The government responded with the Unlawful Societies Act, banning both Catholic and Orange organisations. In 1824, a Bill providing for Catholic Emancipation passed in the House of Commons but was defeated in the Lords. In response, O’Connell founded a new Catholic Association. In 1825, Wellesley married for a second time an American Catholic heiress, to the consternation of the Orange press. In 1826, O’Connell and the Catholic Association received much support from candidates in the general election and in the same year, Lord Liverpool had a stroke.

In 1828, the Duke of Wellington, the brother of Richard Marcus Wellesley, became Prime Minister and when O’Connell was elected MP for Clare the following year, Wellington persuaded the King that there was no way of avoiding Catholic Emancipation. The outcome vindicated O’Connell’s strategy of demonstrating loyalty to the Crown and its representatives in Dublin Castle while using every lawful means at his disposal to advance the cause of Emancipation.

Dr McGuckian’s paper is available HERE

Dr Thomas McGrath, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar at St Patrick’s College Carlow, and author of spoke about the relationship between O’Connell and Bishop James Doyle. Doyle, who was an intellectual match for O’Connell, was an Augustinian friar who was appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 1819 at the age of 33 and who became the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland at the time of Catholic Emancipation. He wrote extensively about education, reform of the Catholic Church, relief of the poor and interdenominational relations. While he was opposed to compulsory tithes on Catholics to support the Church of Ireland, he abhorred the violent means used during the tithe war to abolish them. He cautioned those who opposed the payment of tithes with the following words – May your hatred of tithes be as lasting as your love of justice.

Before Catholic Emancipation, it was Doyle who dominated the debate in Britain on Ireland – there are more references to him in Hansard than to O’Connell. His evidence to the Royal Commission on Ireland of 1825 was particularly influential. The Catholic Association adopted Doyle as its principal supporter in the hierarchy, with his letters to O’Connell read into its proceedings. No other bishop lent such weight to the Catholic Association.

However, relations between Doyle and O’Connell were strained over what became known as ‘the wings’ of the Catholic Relief Bill of 1828. The Bill provided for representation of Catholics in parliament but at the same time proposed state salaries for Catholic clergy and the disenfranchisement of the 40 shilling freeholders. Although the Bill did not proceed, O’Connell claimed that he supported the Bill because Bishop Doyle and Archbishop Murray of Dublin agreed with the concessions. Doyle was furious that O’Connell had claimed that the Bishops supported ‘the wings’. There was a public confrontation between the two men on the Bill, with Bishop Doyle’s views as a bishop carrying more weight than O’Connell’s. Although Doyle wrote O’Connell a letter of support for his election campaign in Clare in 1829, trust between the two men had been broken.

Doyle feared O’Connell’s demagoguery and was concerned that his agitation might lead to civil war. This was particularly the case in relation to O’Connell’s campaign to repeal the Act of Union. He did not see how O’Connell could win Repeal. In his view, O’Connell should instead have used his skills and energy to reform legislation to improve the lives of people in Ireland. A proposal for an Irish Poor Law in 1832 represented the nadir of the relationship between the two men. Doyle believed that the state had a duty not to let the poor die of hunger and disease and promoted an Irish poor law – but not workhouses – with the cost falling on landlords, not tenants. O’Connell did not support the proposal, claiming that his proposal for a poor law was repeal of the Act of Union. O’Connell’s response was probably conditioned as much by his position as a landlord as his commitment to Repeal. O’Connell’s pursuit of the chimera of Repeal drove Doyle to despair. Doyle became ill and died in 1833 of tuberculosis at the age of 47. While Bishop Doyle may have had a more informed view of civil liberties than O’Connell and could stand above the rough and tumble of politics, O’Connell had to look to the short term to keep a coalition of interests together in pursuit of his long term goals.

Daniel O’Connell and the Gaelic Tradition

Ruth Barrington introduced the session and the first speaker, Dr Neil Buttimer, Senior Lecturer in Roinn na Gaeilge, University College Cork who spoke about O’Connell as seen by a contemporary diarist. The diarist in question, Humphrey O’Sullivan was originally from Kerry but moved to Callan in Kilkenny and was a retailer and later a rent collector. His journal consists of entries for 3,000 days, written in Irish, coinciding almost exactly with O’Connell’s public life. It is a remarkable legacy of the written word. What is surprising is how few references there are in the diary to O’Connell and even to Catholic Emancipation. There is nothing to suggest that O’Sullivan ever met or saw O’Connell but he does mention contributing to O’Connell’s cause up to 1833. O’Sullivan seems more interested in the level of taxation on sugar and tea and to international events such as the Greek Rising, the Swing Riots and the position of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Dr Buttimer commented that O’Connell could envisage without a sigh the evisceration of the Irish language.

Muiris Ó Raoghaill, a native of Castlecove and a primary school teacher in Kildare, spoke about the folklore of Caherdaniel. He praised the contribution of Seamus Fenton (1874-1958) who was born in Caherdaniel, became a primary school teacher and an Inspector of Schools in 1915. In 1914, he published a collection of the poems of Tomás Rua Ó Suilleabháin, at the height of the Gaelic Revival. He wrote an introduction to Ó Suilleabháin’s Amhrán na Leabhair in which he spoke of meeting the man who helped bring the poet’s books down to Beal Trá on their fateful journey to Ballinaskelligs. After Independence, Fenton rose to the position of Deputy Chief Inspector in the Department of Education and had responsibility for the introduction of Irish to every national school. It was thanks to his influence that every school in Kerry had a copy of Tomás Rua’s poems. He also wrote a memoir, in which he gives a lively account of a fair day in Sneem in 1885.

Muiris also spoke about the recordings of Irish speakers made in 1928 by Dr Wilhelm Doegan, Director of the Sound Department of the Prussian State Library. Thirty Irish speakers from Kerry were recorded in Killarney and the recordings are available on the Doegan Records Web Project – www.doegan.ie He also mentioned the work of Tadhg Ó Murchú (1896-1961) a folklore collector from Castlecove.

Daniel O’Connell and his Worlds in Kerry

Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, the 24th Knight of Kerry, spoke about the relationship between Daniel O’Connell and Maurice Fitzgerald, the 18th Knight of Kerry (1774-1849). Maurice Fitzgerald was an almost exact contempory of O’Connell. Both families were prominent in South Kerry – their estates overlapped – and had connections through marriage with the O’Briens. The Fitzgeralds became Protestant in 1703 and the 14th Knight signed the Oath of Conformity in 1708. Although members of both families joined the French army, by the end of the 18th century, there was a clear difference of outlook between the two families. The Fitzgeralds were supporters of the Crown while the O’Connells were recusant Catholics. Maurice Fitzgerald was educated at Harrow while O’Connell attended St Omer in France. By 1800, Fitzmaurice was an MP in Dublin and London, while O’Connell was beginning his career at the bar. Both supported Catholic Emancipation and were close enough for Fitzgerald to act as a second to O’Connell in his aborted duel with Peel. Subsequently, they had a bitter and protracted political row over parliamentary reform and Repeal. When O’Connell withdrew his support, Fitzgerald lost his seat in 1837.

Both O’Connell and Fitzgerald shared the same problems as landlords at a time of rapid population growth, unprecedented demand for land and great poverty. Just under half of all holdings in South Kerry were less than five acres. Both men must have known that the land alone would not support the population. Fitzgerald developed the slate quarries in Valentia and salmon fisheries in Waterville to increase employment. Slates from Valentia were shipped by steam vessel to London until early in the 19th century and helped to protect the area from the worst effects of the Great Famine. Fitzgerald nearly succeeded in establishing a steam service from Valentia to Nova Scotia but the venture failed. However, the railway was extended to Reenard in 1893.

Two episodes demonstrate the respect that existed between the two men, despite their political differences. In 1843, Dublin Castle attempted to persuade Maurice Fitzgerald to undermine O’Connell’s reputation by asking him to confirm that O’Connell had fraudulently used money from the Repeal Rent. There is no evidence that Fitzgerald ever replied to the letter he received from Lord de Grey. In 1845, the London Times carried a scathing account of the conditions in which O’Connell’s tenants lived. The journalist, Campbell Foster, approached Fitzgerald for corroboration but he refused to get involved. O’Connell subsequently wrote to Fitzgerald thanking him for his ‘handsome conduct’.

Sir Adrian said that he had come across a cache of letters from the period, which included a letter from Maurice, O’Connell’s eldest son and heir, to Peter Fitzgerald offering condolences on the death of his father Maurice in Glanleam on Valentia in 1849. In the letter, Maurice O’Connell wrote of his huge respect for Maurice Fitzgerald, the reconciliation between their two fathers in 1846 and of the friendship that would continue among their descendants. Sir Adrian said that it was a great pleasure for him to meet again so many members of the O’Connell family at the Summer School.

Dr Ciaran McDonnell, of the Department of History in University College Dublin, presented a paper on Daniel, Count O’Connell (1745-1833). Count O’Connell was Daniel O’Connell’s uncle and a brother of Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell. The Penal Laws excluded Catholics from serving in the British army and administration and ambitious young men from Catholic families looked to the Continent for opportunities. Throughout the 18th century, strong networks of Irish families across Europe facilitated trade and education and military and administrative advancement. Richard Hennessy, for example, had joined a French regiment and subsequently invested his pension in producing cognac. Maurice O’Connell was educated on the Continent and joined the French army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was created Count O’Connell by Louis XVI in 1785. He had a close relationship with his brother Maurice, writing to him frequently with information and advice, including where young Daniel should be educated in France.

The French Revolution marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Irish in France, including that of Count O’Connell. The royalist nature of the French army made it a target of the revolutionaries. The Garde Nationale was formed and the names of Irish regiments changed and their flags burnt. General Theobald Dillon was lynched and General Arthur Dillon was guillotined. Count O’Connell fled France, collecting young Daniel and other Irish students in St Omer on his way to Britain. At the same time, the laws against Catholics in Britain and Ireland were easing and it became possible for Catholics to join the army. In 1795 O’Connell joined the British army, raising and commanding an Irish Brigade until its disbandment in 1806. While O’Connell’s brigade was more symbolic than strategic, it did mark the beginning of a more formal tradition of Irish Catholics serving in the British army.

Dr Conor Brosnan, a general practitioner in Dingle and an expert on Kerry’s maritime history, spoke about the extraordinary career of Admiral Moriarty, a Kerryman in the Royal Navy. Sylverius Moriarty was born in 1735 to a family of minor gentry in Ballyferriter. His uncle was prefect of Ballyferriter and his grandmother was a poet. In the 18th century, Kerry had strong links with continental Europe– Dingle was strongly linked to Spain and the Hapsburgs. The Cork and Kerry peninsulas were major centres of smuggling, second only to the Isle of Man and north Dublin. ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell made his fortune importing tea for Cork and Kerry from his base in Derrynane.

Moriarty was educated in Paris, funded as many young men from Kerry were, by bursaries left by wealthy Catholics. He became a clerical student in France in the 1850s but left without being consecrated. It was reported that he had said a ‘dry mass’ which probably means that he was quite far advanced in his clerical studies when he left. In 1763 he is recorded as a midshipman in the Royal Navy and it is likely that he converted. He did not hold a commission and needed to pass exams to rise up the ranks and achieve responsibility for a ship. He benefited from the large degree of meritocracy in the Navy. He passed his exams in 1775 and was given responsibility for a ship, the HMS Pearl with a crew that was 30 per cent Irish. His subsequent career is marked by a mixture of ability, circumstances and luck. He was fortunate to have a patron in Sir Peter Parker who was an Irishman.

In 1782 he was imprisoned in Williamsburg jail in Jamaica, which because of its sugar, was an extremely valuable island for Britain to hold. On his release, he was promoted and given charge of HMS Ramilles, one of the navy ships escorting a convoy of merchant ships laden with sugar back to Britain. The convoy included the Ville de Paris, the largest ship of its time. A terrible storm struck the convoy off New Foundland, with hurricane force south easterly winds veering suddenly to the north/ northwest and creating enormous waves. A number of ships were dismasted and were rolling dangerously. Although not the most senior commander, Moriarty took control of the situation and ordered the ships to dump their cargo. Although many lives and ships were lost, including the Ville de Paris, Moriarty saved the lives of 600 men. It was one of the greatest naval catastrophes of the century and the senior commanders, including Moriarty were court martialed. Moriarty was acquitted and his bravery and decision making commended. He was subsequently promoted to Admiral.

In the 1790s, Moriarty returned to Dingle. It was a time of agrarian grievances and he had debts to settle. He was appointed head of the Impress Service, which was responsible for the press gangs that rounded up young men in Cork to serve in the navy. It was Moriarty who first alerted the authorities to the French fleet in Bantry Bay in 1796. He died in 1809.

Sunday 27th August, St Crohan’s Church, Caherdaniel

Memorial Mass


Most Reverend Dr Ray Browne celebrated Mass for the deceased members of the O’Connell family in St Crohan’s church. In the course of his homily he posed the following questions – If Daniel O Connell could walk among us today, 170 years after his death, would he be impressed, satisfied or delighted with the world of 2017? What will the world be like in 170 years from now? What issues would O’Connell have us champion if he was alive today? He suggested that success of the Summer School could be judged by the extent to which it fired our passion for understanding history and to play a more active role as citizens in tackling the major problems facing the world today.

The Memorial Mass was followed by a reception in Caherdaniel Community Centre.

Dr Browne’s homily is available HERE.

The Daniel O’Connell Summer School could not be held each year without the continuous support of the Office of Public Works and the team at Derrynane House, Kerry County Council and the team at Cahersiveen Library, Failte Ireland, New Ireland Assurance, the Glasnevin Trust, Fexco and Walsh’s Supervalu, Cahersiveen. The Organising Committee and the communities of Caherdaniel and Cahersiveen are very grateful for the continued support of the above organisations.

The Committee would also like to thank all those who have become Friends of the School. Should you wish to make or renew a subscription as a Friend of the School, here is the link to the School’s PayPal account.

Daniel O’Connell School 2018

The 2018 School will be held on Friday 31 August and Saturday 1st September.