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"Isaac Butt: The Forgotten Patriot of Limerick's Past" |

“Isaac Butt: The Forgotten Patriot of Limerick’s Past”

Limerick, Ireland – In a recent lecture held by the National Literary Society, the life of Isaac Butt, an Irish patriot, was revisited, shedding light on the man’s intricate journey from his birth in 1813 in Co. Donegal, to his role as a prominent figure in Irish politics. The lecture, delivered by Mr Frank MacDonagh from London, provided a comprehensive overview of Butt’s life, highlighting his contributions to Irish public life and his evolution from a conservative standpoint to becoming a champion of Home Rule.

Contrary to previous misconceptions about Butt’s heritage, it was revealed that his family had English origins, tracing back to Co. Clare. His grandfather, Robert, was a notable figure among the Volunteers in Limerick, leading them in 1710. Despite these roots, Butt’s early years were spent in Donegal, where he was born in 1813.

Butt’s academic journey began in 1831 when he entered Trinity College, Dublin, during the same year that Daniel O’Connell triumphed in the Clare election. His involvement in the College Historical Society, where he served as president, showcased his early nationalist sentiments. During this period, he also ventured into journalism, founding the “Ulster Times” in Belfast, which prompted a response from Charles Gavin Duffy in the form of the “Belfast Vindicator.”


Transitioning to politics, Butt, initially a Conservative, secured seats in Parliament for Harwich and later for Youghal. His eloquence and legal acumen quickly established him as a prominent figure in both law and politics. His alliance with Disraeli, and his defence of Irish patriots like Smith O’Brien and Meagher, marked key chapters in his early political career.

Butt’s political views underwent a significant transformation, moving from a conservative stance to becoming an advocate for Home Rule. Elected as a Home Ruler for Limerick in 1871, his mission was to unite all classes in the service of Ireland. He vehemently critiqued the British government’s rule in Ireland, sought justice for all religious creeds, outlined the framework for a National University, and played a pivotal role in promoting secondary education.

Addressing the Amnesty movement and eventually embracing Home Rule, Butt’s legacy lies in his efforts to bring about positive change for Ireland. His impact extended to educational affairs, particularly his contribution to the Intermediate Act, shaping and facilitating secondary education in the country.

The lecture, attended by a diverse audience, garnered praise for its thorough exploration of Butt’s life. The Right Hon. J. F. Cox, M.D., commended the speaker, highlighting the enlightening and stimulating nature of the address. The sentiment was echoed by Mr James Collins, a lifelong associate of Isaac Butt, who emphasized Butt’s prescient vision of his fate at a young age.

As the forthcoming “Life of Isaac Butt” by Mr MacDonagh is anticipated, the lecture provided a glimpse into the forgotten chapters of Limerick’s history and the enduring legacy of a man who evolved from a young, spirited nationalist to a champion of Irish Home Rule. Butt’s story serves as a testament to the complexities and nuances that define the political landscape of Ireland.

Irish Independent – Tuesday 09 December 1913

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