Orator and leader, surnamed "The Liberator"; born Carhen, County Kerry, Ireland, 6 August 1775; died Genoa, Italy, 1847.
He studied at Saint Omer and Douai where his stay was cut short by the French Revolution and in 1798 was called to the Irish Bar.
Though the penal laws had been relaxed, Catholics had only limited legal rights and O'Connell determined that they should have a voice in the making of the laws and should have religious freedom.
The French Revolution had inspired him with a horror of violence and he determined to secure his end by peaceful means, with the cooperation of the oppressed masses.
His first public appearance, 1800, was to denounce the projected union of parliaments, but when the act was passed, he organized the Catholics to fight for emancipation.
He struggled undauntedly against bigotry and government oppression for years, opposing the proposed English veto power over episcopal elections and welcoming George IV to Ireland, 1820.
By 1826 his Catholic Association was strong enough to contest parliamentaiy elections successfully; two years later he himself won the election in Clare amidst tremendous popular enthusiasm.
He then refused to take the anti-Catholic oath in Parliament required by law; the crisis had come; Wellington feared a rebellion, so the Government capitulated, granting Catholic Emancipation, 1829, and O'Connell was the uncrowned King of Ireland.
He now bent his efforts towards reform of the poor and tithe laws, and above all to repeal the Union.
Eventually the Repeal Movement made mighty strides, monster meetings were held throughout the country, O'Connell was flung into prison but was released on appeal.
Unfortunately his health began to fail, the generation of Young Irelanders was chafing under his prudent discipline; then came the horrors of the Great Famine.
He was forced to seek restoration in a warmer climate and wished to die in Rome; but the end came after he reached Genoa.
He had bequeathed his heart to the Eternal City and his body to Ireland, where it rests under the beautiful round tower at Glasnevin, Dublin.
New Catholic Dictionary