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Catholics in the Irish Parliament: Daniel O'Connell and his influence in Italy


Daniel O'Connell (Cahersiveen 1775 - Genoa 1847), an Irish politician and patriot, fought for Catholic Emancipation, to repeal the penal laws discriminating Irish Catholics and the Act of Union. Believing firmly in non-violence, he defended the representation of Irish Catholics in Parliament as the most appropriate instrument to support their rights. His thoughts and actions were spread and known in Italy and Europe while some Catholics were arguing on a possible reconciliation between religion and freedom and on the resulting openness to the principles of democracy and to the problem of representation. The Theatine Gioacchino Ventura from Palermo, one of the leaders of the Sicilian 1848 revolution, was a great admirer of O'Connell, so much that after his death he delivered a funeral eulogy at Sant'Andrea della Valle Church in Rome. Ventura, recognized among the precursors of the current liberal and democratic Italian Catholic movement, shared the causes embraced by O'Connell and considered him “the first mediator between Church and modern society”. He believed that O'Connell was a champion of liberalism who had succeeded in combining the nationalistic reason with freedom, the right to vote and the eligibility of Catholics. Following Ventura, Luigi Sturzo (1871-1959), another member of Italian Catholic movement and founder of the first Catholic party (PPI), was inspired from the political experience of O'Connell, considering him “the forerunner of constitutional Catholics on the continent”. Sturzo worked for the inclusion of Catholics in the state political structures, contributing to the realization of full democracy.