Archive for November 27th, 2009

Review of Clifford D. Conner’s Arthur O’Connor

27 November 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Clifford D. Conner promises a full and exacting review of the life and career of the United Irishman with the title Arthur O’Connor: The most important Irish revolutionary you may never have heard of. As one of the highest ranking members of the United Irishmen Conner argues that Arthur O’Connor suffers from neglect, with just one other biography of O’Connor. This he claims is because unlike Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Theobald Wolfe Tone he survived 1798 and had a long life. Unlike Tone or Robert Emmett, O’Connor was not executed by the government in the afternmath of the 1798 rebellion, was never hailed as a romantic figure and so he has been sidelined by history. Unfortunately many of the significant republicans and politicians of this era are without a full modern biography. Thomas Addis Emmet and James Napper Tandy, both prominent figures in the republican movement, have also been neglected, perhaps because they too survived the 1798 rebellion, possibly because there is not enough surviving correspondence and primary source material to construct detailed biography or, more plausibly still, because despite the wide-spread celebration (and consequently out-pour of publications) of the double centenary of the 1798 rebellion in 1998 there is still a lot of work to be done on the political figures of the period.

While a welcome addition to the historiography of eighteenth-century Ireland and to the biographies of major Irish political and republican figures Conner’s biography falls down on three points.  Read more

Arthur O’Connor: ‘The most important Irish revolutionary you may never have heard of’

27 November 2009

Contributed by Clifford D. Conner

My new biography of Arthur O’Connor advances the claim that he was the most important leader of the United Irishmen in the era of the Great Rebellion of 1798. But histories of the Rebellion have traditionally either mentioned Arthur O’Connor only in passing or not at all. It is almost as if books about the Russian Revolution were to neglect mentioning Lenin.

Why is O’Connor’s name not more familiar? The best-remembered figures of this critical era are Theobald Wolfe Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald. But in 1798, if officials of the British government were asked who they considered to be Public Enemy Number One, or if French government officials were asked to identify the primary Irish revolutionary with whom they were collaborating, all would have replied without hesitation, “Arthur O’Connor.”

In trying to focus attention on O’Connor’s contributions, it is definitely not my intention to downplay or undermine the historical reputations of Wolfe Tone and Lord Edward. But I continue to believe that the question of why they have been so well remembered and O’Connor has not is worth an answer. Read More