Call to dust off The Liberator’s coat

The Clare Champion,
Friday, May 24th, 2013
Jessica Quinn




A coat belonging to Daniel O’Connell has been ‘totally forgotten about’ and now languishes in the Clare Museum, according to Ennis historian, Brian Dinan, while carrying out research for his book celebrating the centenary of St Flannan’s Terrace. A Terrace of Houses - A Passion of People, uncovered the history of the coat. He is calling for the garment to be put on public display in county capital.

‘It has languished in the museum and never been displayed. Not displaying such an item of local importance is akin to killing off an historic artefact. Such action is depriving the local community of gaining benefit, honour and pleasure from having such a treasure on display in our own museum’, he said.

Museum curator John Rattigan has confirmed to The Clare Champion that the coat is in the Clare Museum, stating that there has been no funding available to allow it to be displayed in an appropriate manner. However, he added that the cost for a showcase to exhibit the coat will be included in budget proposals for 2014.

According to Mr Dinan, the coat was given by The Liberator to Michael G Considine, who died in 1884, in appreciation of his service. It then passed down through the generations until it was eventually donated to the Ennis Museum in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s by Mick Considine.

‘Daniel O’Connell gave some of his prized possessions to Michael G Considine for him to keep in Ennis and Clare. It was done in the natural understanding that they were artefacts that would always be part of Ennis and Clare, the place where O’Connell was so dramatically elected as MP’.

According to Mr Dinan, ‘The coat should be put on display, it’s a part of the history of Ennis. You could have a whole area in the museum for Daniel O’Connell’. His research has found that the coat also had a flag or scarf with it, however the whereabouts of these items remain a mystery.

Mr Rattigan in response commented, ‘In 1964, a local authority-run museum was established at Bindon Street with the name ‘Ennis Museum’. It appears to have existed only for a short time. It is possible that this was the facility that accepted the O’Connell coat when it left the Considine family. It is also possible when this museum closed that at least some of the collection was transferred to the old County Library’s museum in the de Valera Library in Ennis. The earliest record of the coat in local authority care is in a register from the library museum that lists ‘Daniel O’Connell’s coat’ as being present in the library collection from the 1970s. There is no mention of a flag or scarf.’

He outlined that the coat was transferred to the Clare Museum in 2000 but it was not suitable for display in the Riches of Clare exhibition at that time as it required conservation.

‘The coat has never been on display in the exhibition: while the coat was conserved and cleaned in 2008/09, there has been no funding available to date to allow it to be displayed in an appropriate manner in the Riches of Clare exhibition’.

He stated that it is ‘not possible’ to display all of the items in the museum collection. ‘Like other museums elsewhere there are significant items not on display due to the space limitations of physical exhibitions but are nonetheless preserved for posterity. In an effort to provide access to its reserve collection in storage, Clare Museum has been one of the first of its kind in Ireland to photograph these items and place the images on its website. While this is on-going, the O’Connell coat in its pre-conservation state has been viewable on the museum website to the public since 2002. This facility means that artefacts can be viewed anywhere in the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year’.

He concluded, ‘The funding to cover the coat is unlikely to be available in the current economic climate. However, the cost of such a showcase will be included in budget proposals for 2014’.

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