the man associated with Derrynane is Daniel O’Connell, referred to by many as The Liberator (or Emancipator) of Ireland. dedicated to gaining rights for the (mostly poor) Catholics of Ireland from the wealthy Protestant majority, O’Connell opposed the violence associated with armed revolts, such as that which occurred in 1798. he studied law in France during the Revolution, and returned to Ireland in time to witness the worst of the bloodshed for the ’98 Rebellion. consequently, he became a ardent supporter of non-violent direct action. basically, he inaugurated the first major non-violent, popular social movement in history. in 1823, he established the Catholic Association, which had a penny-per-month membership fee and championed electoral reform, tenants’ rights and economic development. in part because of his masterful oratorical skills, O’Connell cultivated a massive following. one of his “Monster Meetings” at the Hill of Tara drew 100,000 people.
he was the first Catholic person elected to the British Parliament, despite the fact that Catholics could not hold such positions at the time. apparently, he was only allowed to stand for the election because of a loophole, and it was assumed that he would not take his seat because it would require taking an (anti-Catholic) Oath of Supremacy, and acknowledge the King George IV as head of the Church of England. in order to prevent another uprising, the British passed the Act of Catholic Emancipation.
having extracted rights for Catholics from the British government, O’Connell set out on a campaign to repeal the Act of Union. during this campaign, he was jailed in Dublin for a time. upon his release, the people of Dublin presented him with a magnificent “triumphal chariot,” which is now on display at Derrynane.
O’Connell died during the Famine in Genoa on his way to Rome (in 1847). his time in prison had weakened him and, at the age of seventy-one, the arduous trip to Italy was more than he could withstand. his heart was buried in Rome, and the rest of his body returned to Dublin for burial.
obviously, his non-violent tactics inspired later social movement leaders, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. additionally, his Catholic Association shaped politics in the United States, as it was carried over by emigrants of the Famine and used to shape political organizations where large Irish communities were established.