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May 12, 2011

Kildare to feature in new TG4 walking series

tg4-walking-series The fourth episode of the new historical walking series, Coiscéimeanna presented by journalist and keen walker, Harry McGee on Sunday, May 22nd at 8.15pm on TG4 (Repeat Friday, May 27th at 11.05pm) features a fascinating walk in Kildare.

In this programme, Harry follows in the footsteps of Daniel O’Connell and the Mullaghmast Monster Meeting in South Kildare in 1843.
During the 1840s, Daniel O’Connell spearheaded a massive political campaign to repeal the act of union and have a parliament established in Dublin. The movement involved a number of mass meetings called monster meetings attended by more than 700,000 people across the four provinces of Ireland. O’Connell picked locations with historical connections, hosting the two biggest ones at Tara, Co. Meath on August 15th 1843 and at Mullaghmast, Co. Kildare on October 1st 1843.
On his journey, Harry explores the events of the mass meeting at Mullaghmast, which is important because it is the last. Due to its success and huge attendance, the next meeting to be held at Clontarf was banned by the British government.
Harry’s walk retraces the journey of Daniel O’Connell from newspapers and contemporary accounts as he made his way from Kilcullen in Co. Kildare to the meeting near Ballitore. O’Connell and his associates left Dublin about half past two in the afternoon on Saturday 30th September 1843 and rapidly proceeded to Kilcullen where they was hosted by the Catholic parish priest, Rev. Mr J. Murtagh. From early on Saturday, repealers from every corner of Ireland converged on the small town and the district around Mullaghmast. Every form of transport was pressed into service and every available place of boarding within a ten-mile radius of the meeting place was booked out. There was little sleep for the thousands gathered in and around Kilcullen and people seemed to be milling around all night.
On the morning of the mass meeting, the procession passed through Old Kilcullen, Calverstown, Halverstown, Blackhall and Narraghmore en route to the Rath of Mullaghmast, a distance of over 20 kilometres. The roadsides were lined with cheering crowds along the whole route, mostly women and children, as the men were on foot heading for Mullaghmast from an early hour.
A large platform was built in the meeting field by locals in the weeks before the huge event. During his speech, O’Connell explained why he chose Mullaghmast for the meeting place.
“At Mullaghmast (and I have chosen this for this obvious reason), we are on the precise spot where English treachery - aye, and false Irish treachery, too - consummated a massacre that has never been imitated. . . . I thought this a fit and becoming spot to celebrate, in the open day, our unanimity (both Protestant and Catholic) in declaring our determination not to be misled by any treachery.”
A banquet was held after the meeting at which 700 people sat down to a hot meal. Daniel O’Connell was rated as one of the finest orators in the House of Parliament in his day. This episode is due to air on May 22nd and coincides with the visit of President Barack Obama, another great orator, to Ireland on May 23rd. There are a number of comparisons made in the programme between O’Connell and Obama!

On his journey, Harry meets with locals and historians alike, such as local historian, Eamon Kane who was heavily involved in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Mullaghmast meeting in Kildare 1993. He meets local woman, Bridie Martin who tells him about the story about 1577 massacre at Mullaghmast and even takes a detour to Castledermot for a pig race!

The writer and director of the series, Bláithín Ní Chatháin (Kane) and also the daughter of Eamon Kane has strong Kildare roots. Hailing from Castledermot she says, “I was very excited to film in my native county, we filmed all over the country from Kerry to Donegal, but we got some of the nicest weather in Kildare and all the crew, including Harry were amazed at how scenic south Kildare was!”

Bláithín grew up hearing about the Monster Meeting at Mullaghmast from her father and helped him with the 150th celebrations when she was a young girl, “It felt very special to bring that story to television”.

The Kildare walk was filmed last Summer.