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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

15 May 1847 : The Death of Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa while making his way to the Holy City. His heart (now lost) was taken on to Rome and his body was returned to Dublin for internment in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.

On May 15, 1847, Father Miley, O'Connell's companion on his last journey, wrote from Genoa:

“The Liberator is not better. He is worse – ill as ill can be. At two o'clock this morning I found it necessary to send for the Viaticum and the holy oil. Though it was the dead of night, the cardinal archbishop (he is eighty-eight years old), attended by his clerics and several of the faithful, carried the Viaticum with the solemnities customary in Catholic countries, and reposed it in the tabernacle which we had prepared in the chamber of the illustrious sufferer. Though prostrate to the last degree, he was perfectly in possession of his mind whilst receiving the last rites. The adorable name of Jesus, which he had been in the habit of invoking was constantly on his lips with trembling fervour, His thoughts have been entirely absorbed by religion since his illness commenced. For the last forty hours he will not open his lips to speak of anything else. The doctors still say they have hope. I have none. All Genoa is praying for him. I have written to Rome. Be not surprised if I am totally silent as to our own feelings. It is poor Daniel who is to be pitied more than all.”
Henry Peel OP
St Martin de Porres Magazine, a publication of the Irish Dominicans.

Daniel O'Connell died at Genoa, in Italy, at 9.35 p.m. on the evening of May 15th, 1847, on his way to Rome

Born near Cahirciveen, County Kerry and adopted at an early age by his uncle Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell. His family had strong trading links with the Continent and he was educated at Saint-Omer and Douai; entered Lincoln’s Inns in 1794 and was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1798. A co-founder of the Catholic Association in 1823, he realised the movement’s enormous potential with the creation of the Catholic rent, enabling ordinary Catholics to become members for one penny a month and creating a substantial reserve of funds for a political campaign. A series of election victories culminated with O’Connell being returned as MP for Clare in 1828 and the Government introducing Catholic emancipation the following year. At the same time, however, they disenfranchised the forty-shilling freeholders who had been the bedrock of the Association’s success.

Giving up his immensely successful practice at the bar, O’Connell now turned his prodigious energy to the campaign to repeal the Act of Union. The 1830s saw swings in his political fortune and the momentum of the movement generally, the Irish Repeal MPs on occasion holding the balance of power at Westminster and some reform being effected on matters such as tithes and municipal administration. He was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841 and with subscriptions to his Repeal Association reaching enormous proportions, he began to organise monster rallies throughout Ireland, a meeting at Tara being attended by an estimated 750,000 people. A meeting scheduled for Clontarf on 8 October 1843 was proscribed and, to the dismay of his followers, O’Connell called it off. He was subsequently arrested, tried for conspiracy, convicted, fined £2,000 and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. He was released after five months but emerged from his imprisonment physically and mentally weakened. His influence over a fragmented movement continued to wane and the Great Famine removed the last of the popular fervour for repeal. He set out for Italy in March 1847 and died in Genoa on 15 May.