Great Irish People

So, in the last blog we looked at some fascinating Inventors who were experts in their fields but not very well known in Irish society maybe besides Arthur Guinness. Now we will be looking at politicians who are in fact the people who shaped Ireland as the country it is today. All these politicians are hailed as heroes and you can visit their gravesides or where they grew up in Ireland. It is very hard to narrow it down to Just only 5 but I will do my best in my fairest judgement.


  1. Daniel O’Connell

‘The Liberator’ as he was known as was born on 6th August 1775 in Caherciveen County Kerry. The house where he was born in is in ruins just over the bridge before you get into Cahirciveen. He was the eldest of ten children and was adopted, along with his brother, by his wealthy uncle, Maurice, who lived at Derrynane House in nearby Caherdaniel.  You can also visit the House in Derrynane where he grew up.

He campaigned for Catholic emancipation for over 100 years. He helped Catholics to win the right to become Members of Parliament. He also wanted Ireland to have its own parliament.  That alone puts him on top of the list as one of the greatest Irish politicians of all time.

He arranged huge gatherings of people known as “monster meetings” where thousands of people would attend to hear him speak. One of the biggest meetings ever was one at Tara, County Meath in 1843 when about half a million-people gathered to hear him.

The government soon banned these meetings because even though Daniel was against violence, the government feared such large gatherings might lead to rebellion. Despite his efforts, Daniel O’Connell didn’t succeed in getting a parliament back for Ireland. But in Feb 1830 O’Connell became the first Catholic in modern history to sit in the House of Commons .

Aware of the fact that he had failed with his great goal, (the Repeal Movement), O’Connell left Ireland for the last time in January 1847. He made a touching speech in the House of Commons in which he appealed for aid for his country. In March, acting on the advice of his doctor, he set out to Italy. Following his death in Genoa on 15 May 1847, his body was returned to Ireland and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery where you can visit it today.


  1. Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson is the only person on this list that is still alive, Mrs. Robinson was born in Ballina County Mayo on 21st May 1944. She attended Trinity College and Harvard University. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate (1969–1989). She was an Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers’ Party and independent senators–the first elected president in the office’s history not to have had the support of Fianna Fáil.

She was the Irelands first female president of Ireland (1990-1997), She also served as United Nations high commissioner on Human Rights (1997-2002).

She is widely regarded as a transformative figure for Ireland, and for the Irish presidency, revitalizing and liberalizing a previously conservative, low-profile political office.

During her UN tenure, she visited Tibet (1998), the first High Commissioner to do so; she criticized Ireland’s immigrant policy; and criticised the use of capital punishment in the United States.

In 2004 she received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for her work in promoting human rights.


  1. Michael Collins

Michael Collins was born on 16th October 1890 in Clonakilty West Cork, after leaving school he worked in the Post Office, spending nine years in London where he became involved in radical Irish nationalism.

He also took part in the famous Easter 1916 rising, but after its failure he was imprisoned, although he was later released in December later that year.

He became the IRB’s organiser-in-chief and assembled a network of spies within government institutions.

In the 1918 December, general election, Sinn Féin took 73 of 105 Irish seats, with Collins winning his seat for South Cork. In Dublin, January 1919, they declared themselves a sovereign parliament – Dáil Éireann – and then declared independence.

Éamon de Valera was elected president of the Dáil and Collins was appointed minister of home affairs and later minister of finance. In this role, he organised the hugely successful Dáil loan which financed the republican government.

Collins is most famous for his leadership of the republican military campaign against Britain (the War of Independence) through the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He directed a group of gunmen tasked with assassinating British agents whose campaign culminated on 21 November 1920 with the killing of 14 British officers in Dublin. In the day of violence that followed, British forces opened fire at a Gaelic football game, killing 12.

When a truce was agreed with Britain in July 1921, Collins and de Valera were the two most powerful men in republican Ireland. Collins led the Irish delegation at the peace conference in London which resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. This brought the Irish Free State into existence and partitioned the island, with six predominantly Unionist counties in the north remaining outside the Free State. The Treaty was passed by the cabinet in Dublin by one vote, with de Valera opposed, and was accepted by the Dáil by a very small majority. Collins became chairman and finance minister of the provisional government.

The republican movement was now split into those who opposed and those who supported the treaty. In April 1922, a group of anti-Treaty IRA men took control of the Four Courts Building in Dublin. With support from London, Collins ordered it to be attacked, marking the beginning of civil war in Ireland. Collins took charge as commander-in-chief of the pro-treaty, Free State army. His campaign was successful but before its conclusion, on 22 August 1922, he was assassinated by anti-treaty forces in an ambush in Beal na Bla County Cork.


  1. Eamon De Valera

Éamon de Valera was born on 14 October 1882 in Manhattan New York City. His Mother Kate Coll was from near Bruree County Limerick and his father was a Spanish artist but died when De Valera was only two years old. Éamon was then taken to Ireland by his uncle Ned at the age of two and was reared by his grandmother.

He was educated locally at Bruree National School, County Limerick and C.B.S. Charleville, County Cork. Aged sixteen, he won a scholarship to Blackrock College Dublin.

He went on to become a professor of mathematics and lectured part-time at Maynooth and various Dublin colleges. At school and later he was a keen rugby player.

In 1908, he joined the Gaelic League, the beginning of his life-long devotion to Irish. One of his teachers was Sinead Flanagan, herself a teacher and four years his senior. They fell in love and were married in January 1910. De Valera joined the Irish Volunteers at their first meeting in 1913.

During the Easter 1916 rising he commanded the Boland’s Mills garrison during the 1916 rising. After the surrender, he was sentenced to death, but later it was decided to sentence him to life imprisonment instead.

In prison, de Valera began to show his leadership qualities. De Valera was released from prison in June 1917 and was elected Sinn Fein deputy for East Clare.

When the British Government proposed to extend conscription to Ireland in early 1918, de Valera led the successful opposition to this proposal. On 17 May 1918, De Valera was arrested and deported for internment to England, where he was to remain up to February 1919.

After his escape from Lincoln Jail on 3 February 1919, de Valera returned briefly to Ireland and was elected President of the Dail.

Early in June 1919, he travelled to the U.S.A. to seek financial and political support for an independent Ireland. He returned to Ireland in December 1920 to take his place as the President of Ireland

During the Civil War of 1922-1923 between the pro-Treaty Provisional Government under Michael Collins and its opponents, de Valera supported the anti-Treaty Republicans.

In May 1926 at a meeting in Dublin, de Valera founded a new political party called Fianna Fail.

Eamon de Valera died on 29 August 1975 at the age of ninety-two. He was buried in Glasnevin cemetery after a state funeral.


  1. John F. Kennedy and Family

Finally, not exactly an Irishman by birth but worth the entry as his ancestors came from Ireland.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Both the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys were wealthy and prominent Irish Catholic Boston families.

John F. Kennedy, nicknamed “Jack,” was the second oldest of a group of nine extraordinary siblings. His brothers and sisters include Eunice Kennedy, the founder of the Special Olympics; Robert Kennedy, a U.S. Attorney General; and Ted Kennedy, one of the most powerful senators in American history. The Kennedy children remained close-knit and supportive of each other throughout their entire lives.

He was the first Catholic Man to be elected president of the United States,  Kennedy defeated Vice President, and Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, in the 1960 U.S. Presidential Election. At age 43, he became the youngest elected president

and the second-youngest president (after Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when he became president after the assassination of William McKinley). Kennedy was also the first person born in the 20th century to serve as president.

During his term in office the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion,the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,the establishment of the Peace Corps,developments in the Space Race, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Trade Expansion Act to lower tariffs, and the Civil Rights Movement all took place during his presidency.

Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested that afternoon and determined to have fired shots that hit the President from a sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.

Kennedy continues to rank highly in historians’ polls of U.S. presidents and with the general public. His average approval rating of 70% is the highest of any president in Gallup’s history of systematically measuring job approval.