The Irish statesman Daniel O’ Connell (1775–1847) was a pioneer of the political mass-movement, which he engaged first to achieve Catholic Emancipation (1829), then in pursuit of repeal of the Act of Union. He was abetted by Thomas Wyse, who established Liberal Clubs to activate the support of the Catholic gentry. Together with reform-minded Catholic clergy, they mobilized the vote of the ‘40 Shilling’ small freeholders to obtain parliamentary seats for their Irish Repeal Party, even those traditionally in the ‘pockets’ of the Protestant aristocracy. The price extorted by the British government for Emancipation, however, was the exclusion of the small freeholders from the vote, and O’ Connell’s coalition with the Whigs to further his aims alienated more radical supporters. Nevertheless, popular support was immense, evidenced by the Monster meetings held round Ireland in 1843, attracting attendances in the hundred thousands. Thereafter, the movement would be engulfed by the catastrophe of the Great Famine.
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