text I am going to comment on is a political speech delivered by Daniel O’Connell
on February 4, 1836 to the House of Commons whereby Daniel O’Connell called for
justice for Ireland. Daniel O’Connell had
been born on 6th of August in 1775 in Cahirciveen, the county of
Kerry. Known
as “Liberator or Emancipator of Ireland”, he was sent to France to study Law.s1  Previously he had previously studied in Cork. He would then continue
his studies in London before he would return to Ireland where he would become an
important and successful lawyer. In 1797 he joined the United Irishmen.
However, even if he did not participate in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 probably
because it was a violent movement, and he rejected violence to achieve his
goals, he stood up for the Catholic emancipation of the Irish Catholics. He
also fought always within the legal possibilities something that gained him
some criticism.s2 


In order
to understand the motivation behind his speech, we must first draw our
attention to the political and historical context in which Ireland found itself
around the 18th and the 19th
Centuries. During the 17th
century Penal Laws had been enacted in order to suppress Catholics in Ireland. One
of the most important episodes of repression was the Tithe War that originated
in the payments (called tithes) that
people working on the land had to pay to the United Church of England and
Ireland. What was to be a peaceful
campaign of non-payment turned violent in 1831 when property was to be seized
in lieu of payment.s3  Despite the fact that O’Connell
rejected the use of violent, he
defended the participants in this rebellion. But before this war, in 1801,
Ireland also suffered the Elimination of the Irish Parliament by means of the
Act of Union. Irish politicians were from then on to be based in London but no
Irish Catholics had the right to become MPs and this is why even though
O’Connell won the by-election in Clare in 1828, he could not take a seat in
Parliament in London. O’Connell would also oppose this Act of Union and fought
against the against Catholics laws by
founding, in 1840, The Repeal Association. In order to put pressure on the
English, he called monster nationwide demonstrationss4  that asked for
Catholic emancipation for example the huge meeting in Dublin in October 1843
for which he was imprisoned for seditious conspiracy. O’Connell also campaigned
for Irish Home Rule and this is one of the reasons why he is considered the
father of the Irish Independence that would finally take place in 1921.

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his speech, Daniel O’Connell asks for justice for Ireland and argues that
England cannot deny the same justice applied to England itself and to Scotland.
He alludes to 1825 and declares that the Irish “begged” for emancipation and
that his speech and “person”
had no permission to reply on the Treasury Benchs5 . In his speech, he
stresses that he is not asking for money on behalf of Ireland but for justice
and warns that even if they laugh, sneer at him and insult him by calling him
“Irishman and Papist” while continuing to wound Ireland, his country will
continue asking for justice as this demand is “legitimate” and “proper”.  


Daniel O’Connell also fought against slavery even
though he did not entirely reject this sort of trade. He, however, attacked the
idea of slavery, especially
when it came to the United States where, for example, he called George
Washington “a hypocrite”. In spite of all this, O’Connell will always be
remembered for his success in the Catholic Emancipation (The Roman Catholic
Relief Act 1829) that allowed Catholics to sit in the parliament in Westminster
and he is considered to have pushed forward for the independence of Ireland
(1921) that, paradoxically, was not able to avoid violence and division in
society as O’Connell would have wanted. However, he failed in pushing for the
abolition of the  “Act of the Union”
(1800). Nevertheless, O’Connell who had admired the Latin American Liberator
Simon Bolivar, inspired, in his turn, other pro-independence leaders such
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948, India’s Independence), and Martin Luther King
(1929-1968, for the rights of black people in the United States) and most probably,
in my opinion, other contemporary pro-independence movements in our current
democratic societies in Europe which bear striking similarities especially in
the reaction of the governments of the countries that do not want to lose their
territory (imprisonment of political leaders accused of sedition conspiracy as
Daniel O’Connell was accused of, insults and most of all lack of moral justice.
At the same time, certain well-consolidated, advanced and competent democracies,
in Europe and Canada, have been able to solve the problem (at least
temporarily) by negotiating and using the purest tool in a democracy: a
referendum.  If we examine history, we
can observe that that repression and denial of a reality has only fostered
rather than neutralise the quest for independence whereas in other cases, where
a referendum has been held to let people voice their desire for independence,
it has served to alleviate these needs.

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