Roscommon Catholics' Campaign for Parliamentary Reform

18th February 1835

With the arrival of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Daniel O’Connell led a party of 39 Irish MPs pledged to repealing the Act of Union. During the following years it was O’Connell’s leadership of the Irish MPs which kept Lord Melbourne’s ministry in office and as a result O’Connell had much Irish patronage placed at his disposal. Denis O’Conor (1794-1847) who was educated as a barrister and traveled extensively in Europe, supported the pro-Catholic agitation in Roscommon. Following the granting of emancipation in 1830, he was the obvious choice of the county’s liberal Catholics for the representation. The O’Conor Don, who declared himself in favour of reform and economies, and exerted himself, especially on the subject of Tithes, retained his seat for the rest of his life.

Freemans Journal 1763-1924, Wednesday, February 18, 1835; Page: 2


We have received several letters from Roscommon, each of which describes the enthusiasm of the people in glowing colours. In fact, clergy, gentry, and peasantry all have combined in one glorious effort to defend the issue of the late contest. Subjoined is a list of the subscribers to the patriotic fund which is in progress of collection, for the purpose of maintaining in that high place in which the virtue alone of the people placed them, the O'Conor Don and his colleagues; and a glance at this document will suffice to prove, even to the bitterest enemies of popular liberty, that in Roscommon the gentry and the people are embarked in a common cause. Even our dull contemporary will not dare—and his daring is wonderful to insinuate that the names on this list do not form the great majority of the landed proprietary and public spirit of that county. 

In fact, the only names missing of those who could even have been expected to sign such a document, and for such a purpose, are those of the wretched, renegade House of Hartland. As to the connexions and creatures of Lord Lorton,—the former would not, if they could, and the latter durst not if they would, be a party to the patriotic proceeding which it is our grateful duty to notice. It could not be expected that the Kings and Lloyds, and that set, would show sympathy with the people; and the Catholic tenantry of Lord Lorton being nearly all at will, are constrained, by hard necessity, to support an interest which they abhor, and to oppose those in whose success they must and do feel a deep interest. And here let us be permitted to observe, that if the electors had the protection of the Ballot, the number of Mr. Barton's supporters would suffer a huge amputation—scarcely the bust would remain. But there is no such protection— the people are obliged to vote in what Sir Robert Peel would call the English fashion,—that they must peril their property —perhaps their lives and the safety of their families; or play the renegade and the hypocrite,—and hence it was that the corruptionist nominee of a fanatical and bigotted Peer obtained the lip service of men who abhorred his principles, his patron, and his party, and whose cadaverous aspect, when recording their votes, evidenced the inward pangs under which the very flesh was writhing. But though unprotected, and left to the exercise of the "English" mode of voting, i.e. hypocrisy and falsehood, the spirit of freedom was too strongly blended with the popular feeling, and intolerance was signally beaten down.

The wounded monster is now struggling in its agony, and although its restoration to health and vigour is not even dreamed of, it endeavours to inflict a deadly, dying wound upon its destroyer. The faction do not hope to unseat the sitting members—they have no expectancy of so defeating the people as to send their own instrument—neither does Mr. Barton himself dream of obtaining a seat in the House of Commons even for a night, as the price of the many thousand pounds which this Quixotic encounter has and will cost him; but lit and his party hate the very sound of freedom—they abhor the bare name of popular liberty, they owe a, mortal grudge to that poverty and patriotism which had been to their pernicious interest so fatal—and hence the effort to annoy even when the power of doing an injury has passed away. They are but sowing the seeds of a second defeat. With swinish obstinancy they move forward and swinishly will they destroy themselves. The following list will show that the ruthless faction of corruptionalists shall never can triumph in Roscommon:—

The O'Conor Don, M.P., Fitzstephen French, Esq. M.P., Daniel Kelly, Esq., Cargins, Edward O'Conor, Esq., Belanagare, £100 each; James Balfe, Esq., Runnymede, £100, or more if required ; Valentine Blake, Esq., Towerhill £100 or more if required ; Edward Moore, Esq , Cleveland row, London, William Murphy, Esq., Smithfield, Dublin, £100 each; Oliver Grace, Esq., Mantua House, Michael Balfe, Esq., South-park, £50 each; Michael Balfe, jnr., Esq., South-park, Richard Irwin, Esq. Rathmile; Pat  Taaffe, Esq., Foxborough, £30 each; Martin Lynch, Esq., Roseberry, Peter O'Connor, Esq., Toomona, Win. Taaffe, Esq. Cuppa-lodge, £25 each; Patrick Curtis, Esq., Dublin, Nicholas French, Esq., Fortwilliam, Patrick O'Connor, Esq., Enfield, James Lynch, Esq., Windfield, Anonymous, £10 each; Right Rev. Dr. Browne, Galway, Rev. Mr. Tighe, P.P., Strokestown, Rev. Mr. Fahy, P.P., Garnbo, Rev. Mr. Devine, P.P., Boyle, Rev. Mr. O'Conor, P. P., Croghan, Rev. Mr, McDonough, P. P., Frenchpark, Rev. Mr. McDermot, P.P., Kilglass, Rev. Mr. Conry, P.P., Grosna, Rev. Mr. Brady, P.P., Loughglyn, Pat Browne, Esq., Clonfad, Robert Irwin, Esq., Emla, Pat. Dockry, Esq., Carrick-on-Shannon, Gerard E. Strickland, Esq., Loughlynn, John Walsh, Esq., Dublin, Charles Hawkes, Esq., Briarfield, Edmond French, Esq., Balla, George Harken, Esq., Ross-lodge, 10/. each; Rev. Mr. O'Gara, C.C., Rev. Mr. Boyd C.C, Rev. Mr. Feeny, C.C. Rev. Mr. Brennan, P.P., Rev. H. McDermott, P. P., Rev. Mr. King, P. P., Rev. Mr. Lennan, P.P, Rev. Mr. O'Brien, C. C, N. Comyn, Esq., Dublin, Valentine Irwin, Esq., Rathmile, Charles Blackenny, Esq., Hollywell, Edward Fagan, Esq., Castlerea, W. Fitzgibbon, Esq., Castlerea, Peter Fitzgibbon, Esq., Dublin, Robert Nolan, Esq., Denis Egan, Esq., and James McGann, Esq., 5/. each ; Bartley Mahon, Esq, Pat Feely, Esq., John Irwin, Esq., Fernhall, Michael Butler, Esq., and Anonymous, per ditto, 3/. each.