O'CONOR, Denis, the O'Conor Don (1794-1847), of Belanagare and Clonalis, co. Roscommon
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Family and Educationb. May 1794, 1st s. of Owen O’Conor* of Belanagare and Jane, da. of James Moore of Mount Browne, co. Dublin. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1813; L. Inn 1817; King’s Inns 1817; continental tour.1 m. 27 Aug. 1824, Mary, da. of Maurice Blake of Tower Hill, co. Mayo, 2s. 5da. suc. fa. as O’Conor Don 12 June 1831. d. 15 July 1847.
Ld. of treasury July 1846-d.; PC [I] ?1846.
O’Conor, who was educated as a barrister and travelled extensively in Europe in the early 1820s, supported the pro-Catholic agitation in Roscommon led by his father, the O’Conor Don, later that decade and assisted in his return for the county, following the granting of emancipation, in 1830.2 He moved the resolution for repeal of the legislative Union with Britain at a county meeting, 14 Jan., and seconded one in favour of parliamentary reform at another, 16 Apr. 1831.3 On the death of his father in June, less than a month after he had regained his seat at the general election, he not only succeeded to his ancient title and large estates, but, as heir to his father’s patriotic reputation, was the obvious choice of the county’s liberal Catholics for the representation. Nothing in the end came of a challenge from the recently defeated Tory candidate and the new O’Conor Don, who declared himself in favour of reform and economies, was returned unopposed at a by-election in July 1831.4
He voted for the enfranchisement of Greenwich, 3 Aug. 1831, and thereafter generally divided for the details of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill. However, on 11 Aug., when he presented a petition from the burgesses of Galway complaining about its franchise, he was in minorities for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry and against the proposed division of English counties. He voted for Pelham’s amendment to adjourn the debate on issuing the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., but with government in two divisions on allegations of bribery and misconduct at the recent election there, 23 Aug. He divided for making legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug., and against committing the truck bill, 12 Sept. He voted for the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He spoke for the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept., and criticized the appointment of the Orangeman Lord Lorton as lord lieutenant of Roscommon, 6 Oct. 1831. The O’Conor Don, who attended a gathering of Irish Members about their reform bill in September and signed the requisition for a Roscommon reform meeting that winter, voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, to go into committee on it, 20 Jan. 1832, and again steadily for its details.5 He divided against amending the Vestry Act, 23 Jan., and recommitting the anatomy bill, 27 Feb., and with ministers against producing information on Portugal, 9 Feb. He supported the prayer of his county’s reform petition, 3 Feb., and the following day he joined Brooks’s, sponsored by Ebrington and Lord Duncannon*. Having voted to postpone the debate on Irish tithes, 8 Mar., he condemned the government’s bill as coercive and ineffective, 13 Mar., 26 July, and was in hostile minorities, 13, 24 July. He spoke and voted for the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and on 11 May expressed his regret at missing the previous day’s division on Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired. He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, but with O’Connell to extend the Irish franchise qualification to £5 freeholders, 18 June, and with Sheil against requiring electors to pay their municipal taxes before they could vote, 29 June; he presented petitions for the Irish measure to be as extensive as the English, 2 July, and commented on the former, 6 July. He stressed the seriousness of the agricultural distress in Roscommon in giving evidence to the select committee on the state of Ireland, 14 June, and voted for making permanent provision for the Irish poor by a tax on absentees, 19 June.6 He was in the majority for making coroners’ inquests public, 20 June, and the minority for establishing a system of representation for New South Wales, 29 June. His only other known votes were with government for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 and (by pairing) 20 July 1832.
An active Member, the O’Conor Don kept his brother and agent Edward, who married his wife’s sister, closely informed of his parliamentary and constituency endeavours. In August 1832 it was feared that his exertions, especially on the subject of tithes, had impaired his health, and he possibly contemplated retreating to an English borough. However, he was returned unopposed as a Repealer at the general election that year and held his seat for the rest of his life.7 An ‘ardent and consistent Liberal’, he was appointed by Lord John Russell* to the treasury board in July 1846, but died a year later.