Seanad debates

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

2:30 pm

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I commend a recent article on IrishCentral to the Leader and Members of this House on a topic near and dear to us. On this day, 13 January 1800, Daniel O'Connell made the first of many speeches opposing Ireland's union with Britain. It was his first ever speech and it was made in Dublin at a protest meeting against the union. As Members will be well aware, the introduction of that Act was the exact opposite of the aims of the United Irishmen and the purpose of the 1798 rebellion which, it is important to remind ourselves, was supported by Protestant, Catholic and dissenter, and it might be useful to draw on a short excerpt of a speech by Daniel O'Connell, which expresses his sentiments in this regard. He stated: "Let every man who feels with me proclaim, that if the alternative were offered him of Union, or the re-enactment of the Penal Code in all its pristine horrors, that he would prefer without hesitation the latter, as the lesser and more sufferable evil." O'Connell went on to proclaim that he would rather confide in the justice of his brethren, the Protestants of Ireland who liberated him, than lay his country at the feet of foreigners.

In this centenary year of the Easter Rising, it is appropriate that we rededicate ourselves to complete the final chapter in ending British involvement in Ireland or, more precisely, in the Six Counties, as De Valera famously put it at his meeting with Chamberlain in London in April 1938. A debate in this House on achieving that objective would be a fitting tribute to the sentiments of Daniel O'Connell, the memory of the patriots of 1916 and the subsequent patriots in our War of Independence. I hope the Leader can find time to accommodate that request before the election is called.


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