Liberating Ireland: Daniel O’Connell and the Civil Rights Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century

Lough Ree Yacht Club, on Wednesday, 26th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Prof. Patrick Geoghegan, TCD
(with an introduction by Mr. Justice John Mac Menamin, Supreme Court)

Daniel O'Connell, Patrick Geoghegan, TCD, Repeal, Ireland

Daniel O’Connell ‘defending the rights of his countrymen in the courts of Dublin, Feb. 4, 1844’ (US Library of Congress)

Summary – On 18 June 1843 Daniel O’Connell addressed a monster meeting in Athlone where he urged the huge crowd to throw their enemies into the River Shannon. But despite proclaiming ‘Freedom or death’, the campaign for Repeal ended in failure later that year. This lecture will look at O’Connell’s major campaigns in the nineteenth century, from his successful campaign for civil rights in the 1820s, to his ongoing war against slavery in the United States, and through to his failed campaign for Repeal in the 1840s. Towards the end of his life Eamon De Valera admitted that the revolutionary generation of 1916 had never given O’Connell the respect he deserved, and he acknowledged that they would never have achieved independence without him. This lecture explores what De Valera meant.

Speaker – Professor Geoghegan is an expert on the Anglo-Irish relationship in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as on the competing themes of constitutional nationalism and republicanism between 1782 and 1848. His acclaimed two-volume study of Daniel O’Connell completed his examination of the tensions and conflicts which emerged following the abolition of the Irish parliament. The first volume provided a new analysis of the winning of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 while the second discussed the attempts to repeal the Union which failed so dramatically in the 1840s. A Vice-President of the College Historical Society (and a former gold medalist for oratory at the L&H), Professor Geoghegan has always been interested in the role of oratory in political debate and how oratory shaped political discourse. His current work develops from these interests and examines how Edmund Burke both succeeded and failed in using oratory to change the nature of imperial debate in the eighteenth century. He has also been commissioned to write the official history of the College Historical Society for its 250th anniversary.

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The Trial of Roger Casement

Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks, on Tuesday, 4th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, Supreme Court

Roger Casement, Easter Rising

Roger Casement (US Library of Congress)

Speaker – The Hon Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell is a Belfast-born barrister who comes from a distinguished legal family. He was a leading constitutional law practitioner and a law reform commissioner who has worked on a number of high-profile cases before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell was educated at St Mary’s C.B.S., University College Dublin (B.C.L.), King’s Inns (B.L.) and the University of Virginia (LL.M). During his time at UCD, he excelled as an orator who, with his debating partner, was part of the only team to win the Observer Mace debate twice in 1978 & 1979. The Observer Mace  is the annual debating tournament contested by universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1982, commenced practice in 1983 and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1989. He took silk in 1995 and has practised in all Courts in Ireland, in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While at the Bar he published articles in the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (NILQ), Judicial Studies Institute Journal (JSIJ), and Bar Review. His father, Lord Justice Turlough O’Donnell, was a member of the Northern Ireland High Court and the Court of Appeal between 1971 and 1990 and subsequently became a part-time member of the Irish Law Reform Commission. Donal O’Donnell has been a member of the Law Reform Commission since 2005. He is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy Committee on the Origins of the Constitution.

Summary – Roger Casement’s conviction for treason was a hugely controversial event at the time and the focus of world attention. His execution, in August 1916, was the final execution associated with the events of the Easter Rising. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell will provide an analysis of the circumstances and the course of Casement’s trial.

Posted in Lectures

Field Trip to site of the Battle of the Boyne

9.30 am, Saturday, 17th September, 2016
Battle of the Boyne site and Monasterboice

– with Dr. Harman Murtagh as guide


The Battle of the Boyne, 1690 (US Library of Congress)

On Saturday, 17 September, the Society will travel to the Battle of the Boyne site, Monasterboice, and, time permitting, Trim Castle. A bus is available, which leaves at 9.30am from the bottom of the Garden Vale car park opposite the Sheraton Hotel. There are spare seats so there is no problem accommodating late entries. Lunch will be in the visitor centre of the Boyne site. To book a place, email Richard Collins, Secretary TOAS, at


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The Old Athlone Society: Lecture Series, 2016-2017

The Society’s programme of events for 2015-2016 has recently ended. The programme for 2016-2017 is as follows (please note that all lectures start at 8pm and venues will be decided at a later date):


September 2016
Field trip to Battle of the Boyne site and Monasterboice, Co Louth
Dr Harman Murtagh as Tour Guide (Saturday, 17 September)

October 2016
‘The Trial of Roger Casement’
Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, Supreme Court (Tuesday, 4 October)

‘Daniel O’Connell’’
Prof Patrick Geoghegan (Wednesday, 26 October)

‘General Eoin O’Duffy’
Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University (Tuesday, 22 November)

‘The Hill of Gathering: Assembly Places and Practices in Gaelic Ireland’
Prof Elizabeth Fitzpatrick (Wednesday, 7 December)

January 2017
‘Reflections on the Revolution’
Dr Brian Hanley (Wednesday, 25 January)

Showmen and the RFC: Early Aviation in Ireland 1909-14
Guy Warner (Wednesday, 22 February)

‘Irish as a Vernacular Language in Athlone and its hinterland, 1600-c.1970’
Dr Aengus Finnegan (Wednesday, 8 March)

 ‘The Pope’s Irish Battalion and the Papal War of 1860’
Robert Doyle (Wednesday, 29 March)

Billy English Memorial Lecture
‘The Future of the Past: Revival Ireland, 1891-1922’
Prof Declan Kiberd (Wednesday, 26 April)

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The Billy English Memorial Lecture, 2016: The Houses and Landed Families of Westmeath

Wineport Lodge, Wednesday, 20 April at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Donal O’Brien

Waterstown House, Westmeath

Wedding of Dita Harris Temple and Ingoldsby Philip Massy, November 1920 (Note the number of military uniforms) – Photo courtesy of Martin Coghill and taken from Donal O’Brien’s book: ‘The Houses and Landed Families of Westmeath’.

Speaker – Donal’s recent book ‘The Houses and Landed Families of Westmeath’ is a valuable contribution to the heritage of County Westmeath and contains over 700 photographs with 250 in colour. It is an indispensable work of reference and a most useful guide for anyone studying the social and architectural history of the county. The lecture, while covering the whole county, will have its emphasis on the Athlone area.

Summary – Donal O’Brien is a native of Athlone and attended school in the town before going to live in South Africa, returning after twenty years. He has a passion for Georgian Architecture and is a member of the Irish Georgian Society. Donal is a past president of The Old Athlone Society. He previously published ‘A Visitors Guide to Athlone ‘(2003). He is a Tour Guide and an advisor with Failte Ireland.

A pre-lecture supper starting at 6.00 pm will be available in Wineport €20 for one course and €25 for two courses, to include tea or coffee.
Booking by e-mail to – Richard Collins, Secretary TOAS –

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Athlone and the Easter Rising

The Sheraton Hotel, Athlone, Saturday, 2 April, 2016

First speaker on-stage at 10.15 am: admission price, €5

On Saturday 2 April 2016, The Old Athlone Society will host ‘Paths to Freedom’, a day of talks that will explore the history of the Easter Rising from both a national and local perspective. The event, to be held in the Sheraton Hotel, is part of Westmeath County Council’s 1916-2016 programme of events.

The Easter Rising, Athlone

Paths to Freedom, 2 April, Sheraton Hotel, Athlone. The event begins at 10.15 am.

The varied talks will explain aspects of the Rising that are less well-known, while also highlighting some of the surprising links between Westmeath and the events of Easter 1916.

The speakers include:

  • Dr Myles Dungan, of RTE’s ‘The History Show’ will describe how the leaders of the Rising were tried by court martial and the consequences of the subsequent executions.
  • Turtle Bunbury will talk about the lives and personalities of many of those, both famous and forgotten, whose memories are intertwined with Easter 1916.
  • Dr Liz Gillis will discuss the vital role that women played in the Easter Rising. They were educationalists, socialists, community workers, radicals, and feminists with one common goal; independence for Ireland.
  • Ian Kenneally will demonstrate the war of words, and the war of images, that preceded and followed the Rising, a time when censorship meant that no newspaper was safe. Many of the key figures of Easter Week were journalists.
  • Gearoid O’Brien’s talk will bring to life the relatively unknown stories of many men and women from Athlone and Westmeath whose lives were changed by the Rising.
  • Dr John Burke will explore the history and myths of the Midland Volunteer Force, an often mentioned but poorly understood event in our local history.

The Schedule is detailed below:

10.15-Introduction by Dr John Keane
10.20-Dr John Burke: The Midland Volunteers Force, Athlone
11.05 – Tea Break
11.15-Dr Liz Gillis: ‘What did the women do anyway’; Women and the Rising
12.00-Ian Kenneally: ‘We kill all our own’; Media, Propaganda, and the Rising
12.45 – Lunch Break
2.00-Dr Myles Dungan: How to Lose a Country in 16 Executions
2.45-Turtle Bunbury: Easter Dawn; Personalities of the Rising
3.30-Gearoid O’Brien: The 1916 Rising; Some Westmeath Connections
4.15 – Conclusion

For further information contact us at

Westmeath Co Co

2016 Mark__Std_Col png

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In Memory of Mr. Justice Adrian Hardiman

Mr. Justice Adrian Hardiman

Since our last meeting, this society lost a great friend in Mr. Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Supreme Court, who was always on-hand to help us in whatever way he could, whether by writing for our journal, launching a conference, or speaking at one of our events, as he did as recently as November 2015. He was a renowned jurist, Joycean Scholar, and historian. His participation in the Society will always be remembered fondly by our members.

May he rest in peace

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