15.05.11 ‘Society must challenge social injustices’ – Minister Deenihan
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today, Sunday 15th May 2011 officiated on behalf of the Government at the Mausoleum in Glasnevin Cemetery. The ceremony was organised to commemorate the 164th anniversary of the death ‘the Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell.
O’Connell is regarded as one of the giants of 19th century politics, who devoted his political career to improving the lives of Catholics throughout Ireland. He is also accredited with influencing another masterful orator, journalist and anti-slavery activist – Frederick Douglass.
Douglass escaped bondage in Maryland in 1838. He was a self educated slave who published his influential work ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave’ in 1845. This resulted in death threats and it was arranged for him to travel abroad. While travelling, the self proclaimed, unabashed Anglophile met, befriended and ultimately became an admirer of O’Connell through their shared philosophy.
Douglass found in many Irish nationalists he met a kindred spirit of resistance against an oppressor – in his case, the slave-owning South: in theirs, the United Kingdom. O’ Connell of course also passionately opposed slavery – to the point that on meeting an American, before shaking hands, he routinely asked whether the visitor was a slaveholder. If the answer was yes – no handshake.
Douglass believed that O’Connell ‘held Ireland in the grasp of his strong hand’ and could lead it whithersoever he would.” The regard was mutual and ‘the Liberator took to calling Douglass’ the Black O’Connell of the United States.
Minister Deenihan said: “O’Connell and Douglass both struggled against different social injustices that existed in different continents during their time. Today, as a society we too must challenge social injustices to secure a better future for the next generations.