In this paper I examined the religious shift in Irish national identity, from Protestant to Catholic, in the early 19th century. This shift was led by Daniel O’Connell, who led the Irish home rule movement up until his death in 1847. O’Connell had to maintain a delicate balance in his push for independence; he wanted a legislatively independent and unified Ireland for both Catholics and Protestants. But he could never attain the balance he desired because the Protestants were always wary of the O’Connell’s Catholicism. Their wariness was due to O’Connell’s early focus on Catholic Emancipation; he believed every man on the island should hold British civil rights. Protestants did not agree. As a minority in the land they ruled, many Protestants feared Catholic’s gaining civil rights as a prelude to Catholic domination of the island. Therefore, O’Connell’s early focus on attaining civil rights for his fellow Catholics (which was ultimately successful) made it impossible for him to attain his goal of a unified Ireland. Nationalism had become inexorably tied to Catholicism. O’Connell’s failure to attain the peaceful separation of England and Ireland led to the rise of physical force nationalism and the bloody conflicts that wracked the island of Ireland in the 20th century.
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Daunt, Colin, "Daniel O’Connell’s Struggle to Harness Religion and Nationalism in the Pursuit of Universal Civil Rights and Home Rule in Ireland" (2012). History Theses. 6.