Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator”, the man whose voice rang out at monster meetings up and down the island of Ireland, a tireless crusader for religious freedom and the abolition of slavery has been “forgotten in plain sight”. That’s according to broadcaster Olivia O’Leary, whose new two-part series is the first new documentary on O’Connell to be broadcast on RTÉ television in 43 years.
Olivia chatted to Miriam O’Callaghan on Thursday about the documentary and about the man she calls her hero: “a big man with big ideas.” O’Leary is keen to bring Daniel O’Connell’s story to a new generation and to look again at his achievements and his legacy. She admires him first and foremost for his consistent commitment to achieving his political aims without the use of violence:
“I think it’s time to look again at a man who believed in purely peaceful means of progress.”
Olivia O’Leary will never interview Daniel O’Connell. He’s been dead for the better part of 200 years, but she can interrogate his impact on politics and society, in Ireland and across the world. He was passionately opposed to slavery and according to O’Leary, O’Connell would not travel to the United States while slavery was still practiced. He made his views known at the highest level:
“He refused to shake the hand of the American ambassador because he said ‘Sir, you come from a state that allows slavery’.”
Olivia also talks to Miriam about Daniel O’Connell’s opposition to the death penalty, his support for equal rights for women and his battle for religious freedom across many faiths, not just Catholicism. They also talked about the Liberator’s faults, among them his vanity and his inability to manage money.
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