Assess the view that Daniel O'Connell was a great nationalist leader

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Assess the view that Daniel O'Connell was a `great nationalist leader'
Daniel O'Connell was clearly a great nationalist leader and "liberator" because of his vital
role in the Catholic Association as its founder, in the Tithe wars as its victor and in the views
of the Catholic Irish public as their liberator. O'Connell took up the flame of Irish
nationalism and spread it throughout Ireland. His skills as leader led to the passage of
Catholic emancipation and showed Ireland an example of how nonviolent protest can
work.
In 1798 the nationalist rebellion that took place, while O'Connell was at Trinity College,
demonstrated the underlying tension in Ireland. After the Act of Union in 1800, Robert
Emmett's rising once again showed O'Connell and the British how there are those willing to
fight and die for the Irish nationalist cause. Although neither the 1798 or 1803 rebellions
were successful, O'Connell would be able to use the threat and examples of Irish rebellion
later in his tactic of brinkmanship.
In 1823 the Catholic Association was founded. This was primarily down to the lack of
political rights for Catholics in Ireland as well as the want of electoral reform, reform of the
church of Ireland, tenant's rights and economic development. O'Connell used catholic
priests to spread messages and collect catholic rent which raised over £55,000 from
182429. O'Connell was soon seen as an incarnation of their hopes and dreams for the
peasants particularly. The peasant tradition of secret societies and local agitation helped the
work of the association at grass roots level. In 1826 the association called for people to
vote for only proemancipation candidates which meant some people were being asked to
vote against their landlords. It was a success as four proemancipation candidates were
elected. O'Connell was elected for County Clare in 1828 this was his first step towards
emancipation as this meant O'Connell could be elected to take a seat in parliament but to do
so he would have to renounce his faith. Or would he? Through O'Connell's use of
brinkmanship Britain was threatened with civil war in Ireland and so emancipation practically
had to be passed. Although it could be said that O'Connell only achieved emancipation by
threatening violence and so cannot be seen as an example of a peaceful protestor. However,
O'Connell, by only threatening violence indirectly, did still achieve emancipation without
spilling blood and prevented another inevitable bloody rebellion in the future.
Once O'Connell obtained his seat in Westminster he turned his attention to the repeal of the
Act of Union. However, recognising that repeal would take a long time to achieve O'
Connell set about seeking other reforms. The principal reform needed most was the removal
of forced tithes by farmers of all religions to the established church, i.e. the Anglican Church
of Ireland. In 1832, resistance to these tithes payments led to many brutal attacks both on
property and people, hence the Coercion bill. Over 200 people were killed and many
hundreds hurt. The whole country was in turmoil. Those who refused to, or could not pay,
faced seizure of property, livestock or imprisonment. Resistance increased and the
yeomanry resorted to violence to maintain peace. Protestant clergymen were murdered,
rioters shot and many arrests made. O' Connell was appalled by the violence and attempted
to persuade the people that they would get rid of the tithe payments if they could first repeal
the Union. Meanwhile the government, flustered by the mounting tension, not only increased
its powers but suppressed 10 Church of Ireland bishoprics. The loss of revenue to Anglican
clergymen was offset by a government payment of £1m and in 1838, O' Connell was able

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This had the effect of taking
the heat out of the situation.
In December 1834 Sir Robert Peel formed his first ministry: it was the first Conservative
ministry but it was also a minority government. The main body of Whigs joined forces with
the Irish, led by Daniel O'Connell to drive Peel from office. Lord Lichfield lent his house to
the Whig leaders for a series of meetings in February and March 1835.…read more

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