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Remarks by Minister Deenihan at the unveiling of a Plaque commemorating Daniel O'Connell

Remarks by Minister Deenihan at the unveiling of an English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating Daniel O’Connell
17 October 2014

I am delighted to be here this afternoon and would like to thank Professor Martin Daunton of English Heritage for giving me the honour of unveiling an English Heritage blue plaque commemorating our great Liberator and parliamentarian, Daniel O’Connell’s time spent living and working in this great city.

I would also like to thank Mr Richard O’Connell and other members of his family for their initiative and for turning out today in such impressive numbers.

I would also like to recognise Professor Maurice Bric who runs the annual Daniel O’Connell School at Derrynane which I had the pleasure of attending at the end of August.

I have been a lifelong admirer of my fellow Kerryman, Daniel O’Connell, and particularly his towering achievement in advancing through peaceful means the rights of the Irish people at a very difficult time in our history.

O’Connell was not just an Irish figure, but a man of international stature, renowned for his progressive views, his belief in the universality of human rights and his unshakeable commitment to liberal, reforming principles.

It was fully fitting that President Higgins when speaking at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster during his memorable State Visit in April should pay generous tribute to O’Connell, the greatest Irish parliamentarian of the 19th century.

O’Connell was the first Catholic of the modern era to take his seat at Westminster. His support for parliamentary reform and his principled opposition to slavery made him also an important figure at Westminster. At this point, I would like to warmly recognise the presence of Nettie Douglass, great great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass who I have had the pleasure of meeting at Derrynane House two years ago.

Although O’Connell may have been viewed with suspicion when he first arrived in parliament, the quality of his contributions and the force of his personality soon made him into a formidable and admired parliamentarian. Indeed, decades after O’Connell’s death, your great Prime Minister, Gladstone, paid him a fulsome tribute. He said that O’Connell was ‘the greatest popular leader whom the world has ever seen.’

It is fair to say that O’Connell’s sustained non-violent campaign for Catholic emancipation and for Irish self-determination, together with his principled opposition to slavery, gave him a positive international reputation that survives to this day.

Given how important his experiences in London were in shaping his political outlook, and that this city was the setting for so many of his achievements, it is fitting that we should remember O’Connell here today at a building where he lived during the height his political career in the early 1830s.

It gives me great pleasure to officially unveil the English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating Daniel O’Connell, Ireland’s Liberator and one of the commanding figures in the politics of these islands during his lifetime.