The Avancement Of The Cause Of Irish Catholics And Nationalist Leaders In The Years 1801 1921

5760 words - 23 pages

The Avancement of the Cause of Irish Catholics and Nationalist Leaders in the Years 1801 - 1921

In 1801, the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland saw the closing
of Irish Parliament and was therefore routinely denounced by all
manner of Irish nationalists. Much of Ireland was owned by absentee
protestant ascendancy landlords, which caused a lot of bad feeling
among the ordinary Irish people who worked on the land and had to pay
extortionate rents for the land they worked on, often to be thrown off
without compensation.

The first major Irish Nationalist leader was Daniel O’Connell, who was
born into the Roman Catholic Gentry and had Gaelic roots, and
practiced as a barrister in Dublin. He believed in political and
religious equality and wanted change, but his experiences of the
French revolution had frightened him way from violence. He famously
said, “No political change whatsoever is worth shedding a single drop
of blood for.”

His main objectives were the repeal of the Act if Union and to
“restore old Ireland of her independence.” It is probable that in the
short term he hoped for reform of the Union rather than repeal, but if
he had voiced this, many of the more radical Irish would have found
him too moderate and he wouldn’t have had nearly as much support as he
did.

When, in 1821 an Emancipation Bill passed the Commons, but failed the
Lords, O’Connell had had enough; “Twenty years have passed and we are
still slaves.” He felt new tactics were needed so decided to link
emancipation with nationalism in order to widen support for the cause.

In 1823, O’Connell founded the Catholic Association, along with his
supporters, as a constitutional organisation which was peaceful and
legal and aimed to get civil and political rights for catholic Irish
people, and to get off the remnants of the penal laws which imposed
all manner of severe restrictions on the Catholics, including buying
or inheriting land from Protestants, and their estates could not be
passed on as a single property. In addition to this, the clergy were
generally persecuted: bishops were banned from the country and
ordinary priests were forced to register and allowed to practise only
in limited areas.

In 1824 the association introduced the Catholic rent of a penny a
month to finance its work. The leaders were professionals, but the
rent made all the members feel a part of it. This provided the basis
for mass support and the feeling of a crusade rather than just a
pressure group. O’Connell regarded the Catholic Church as important,
because priests could collect rent and they could spread the message
in an effective way. Twenty thousand pounds was collected in the first
nine months and another thirty-five thousand pounds over the next
three years.

By 1928, there were clear signs that...

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