The Peel Web
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In 1823 the Catholic Association was set up by Daniel O'Connell. All Irish citizens were encouraged to join. They paid a 'Catholic rent' of 1d per month, collected after Mass on Sunday, which financed the Association's activities and was used as an insurance fund for members who were evicted for being members of the Association. The priesthood was won over and churches became a propaganda vehicle for the Association and many joined the Association as a religious crusade. Catholics had little to lose and all to gain. In its first year of existence the Association had an income of £1,000 per week (960,000 pennies a month) and at the end of the year it had £10,000 invested. O'Connell realised that a successful campaign needed money to pay for speakers, pamphlets and so on.
The campaign was non-violent but agitation was constant and by 1825 the Association was so active that it was declared to be illegal. O'Connell simply changed its name and continued as before. Also in 1825 Sir Francis Burdett proposed another Emancipation Bill. It passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords. O'Connell felt that there was a need for fully committed believers in emancipation in the Commons, so the Association influenced elections by encouraging Irish voters to elect only pro-emancipation candidates in the 1826 election. Candidates pledged to support emancipation were elected at Louth and Waterford.
The Catholic Association's great triumph came when Wellington's government passed the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829 following the County Clare election in which O'Connell won a huge majority over Vesey Fitzgerald.
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Last modified 6 January, 2011
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