Avondale House , County Wicklow
Referred to in the patriotic ballad as ‘the Blackbird of sweet Avondale’ , Charles Stewart Parnell (1846- 1891) was one of the most brilliant and romantic figures in Irish political history. His residence was Avondale House , just South of the village of Rathdrum and is a must see on your Ireland tours.
Built in 1779 , it has a two-storey hall with a gallery , and contains some fine plasterwork. The house is now a museum , devoted to Parnell’s life and career , and the surrounding estate is a forestry park and college , with specimens of plants from many parts of the world.
The son of a liberal landlord and a radical American mother , from his youth Parnell sympathised with the Irish people in the oppression which they suffered. He joined the Home Rule Party and was elected to the Westminster Parliament in 1875.
Two years later he became leader of that party , and skilfully took advantage of the ongoing struggle for power in Parliament between the Liberals and Conservatives. By 1879 , his leadership qualities were so obvious that he was referred to as the ‘uncrowned King of Ireland’.
He gave his support to the Land League , which sought to break the power of landlordism , and this caused him to be accused of incitement to violence. He was jailed in 1881 ,m but the British Government felt compelled to release him , and his influence was at its zenith in 1890 when it became known that he was having an affair with a married woman , Mrs Kitty O’Shea. Political opportunism and sectarian feeling conspired against Ireland’s great Protestant patriot , and his party was split. He worked slavishly to save the cause of Home Rule , but his over-exertions led to health failure and a premature death.
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