O'Donoghue, Daniel (1833–89), ‘The O'Donoghue of the Glens’, politician, was born in Glenfesk, Co. Kerry, only child of Charles O'Donoghue (1806–33), landowner, and his wife, Jane (1812–97), daughter of John O'Connell, and niece of Daniel O'Connell (qv). The O'Donoghues had been associated with Glenfesk since at least 1634, and the head of the clan had styled himself ‘The O'Donoghue of the Glens’ since 1655. Daniel's father died when he was a few months old and his mother married John McCarthy-O'Leary, JP in Cork. Daniel was educated at Stonyhurst and then became a major in the Kerry militia.
The O'Donoghue harboured great ambitions and started with considerable advantages: his was an ancient Kerry family, he was great-nephew of Daniel O'Connell, he had inherited a considerable patrimony, he was handsome, easy in manner, eloquent, and patriotic, and was for a time heralded as the great nationalist hope. His start in politics was suitably sensational; following the expulsion of John Sadleir (qv), criminally implicated in frauds on the Tipperary Bank, he won an epic by-election over a catholic whig and entered the house of commons aged 24 as an independent for Tipperary (1857–65). His one-time friend and associate A. M. Sullivan (qv) called him ‘the most popular man in the country’ and judged him one of the men ‘who most largely influenced Irish national politics from 1860 to 1865’ (Sullivan, 247). This was an overstatement; the O'Donoghue's activities were flamboyant and well publicised rather than influential. In 1860 he presented a sword of honour from the Irish people to the French general Marie Edmé Patrice de MacMahon (1808–93), afterwards president of France (1873–9), who had distinguished himself in the Italian campaign of 1859 and whose ancestry the Nation traced to Brian Boru (qv). The following year O'Donoghue was a prominent organiser of the funeral of the Fenian Terence Bellew McManus (qv), which was one of the most impressive nationalist demonstrations ever seen in Dublin.
The O'Donoghue sought to set himself up as the leader of a new movement for national independence. In December 1860 he publicly advocated a policy of abstention from Westminster, and a few months later went to Boulogne to meet John Mitchel (qv) and win his approval for a programme combining different nationalist strands (constitutional and otherwise) into one opposition. However, James Stephens (qv) successfully obstructed this plan: The O'Donoghue had resisted joining the Fenians, and their leaders had no great opinion of him. Others also had reservations: Charles Gavan Duffy (qv) felt he lacked originality and resources and John Martin (qv) found him vain, though this did not prevent his establishing with the O'Donoghue a National League to repeal the union in 1864. Little better than a platform for speechmaking, it did not prosper, and was the O'Donoghue's last attempt to seize control of the nationalist project.
In January 1865 he transferred from Tipperary to Tralee (1865–85) when a convenient by-election occurred in that constituency. Abandoning his former independent nationalist stance, he sat as a comparatively low-key liberal, though he was still capable of making capital from public issues such as pressing (1867) for postponement of the trial of the ‘Manchester martyrs’ and leading a mock funeral procession through Killarney, though the bishops had forbidden it. He was otherwise careful to maintain good relations with the church and petitioned in June 1865 for segregated, denominational education.
The 1870s saw him the object of derision in the Nation, and reviled by many of his former supporters as he retracted his nationalist opinions and was among the only Irish liberal MPs to offer strong opposition to the Land League. Reduced circumstances may have cut short his bravado. In 1870 he was declared bankrupt and thereafter was reduced to sending begging letters to fellow liberal MPs. T. M. Healy (qv) recounts that he had ‘spent a fortune in Paris and London on money derived from his patrimony. His carriages in France vied with those of Napoleon III, so he was requested to leave the country’ (Letters and leaders, 34). He was also reckoned an over-generous, even profligate, landlord. In 1880 he changed direction yet again and stood on the home rule platform, making little secret of his motive: ‘It will not surprise you to hear that after so many years in parliament, I should be sorry to lose my seat’ (Ir. Times, 15 Mar. 1880). After retiring from parliament in 1885, he died at home in Ballymahon Court, Athlone, on 7 October 1889 and was buried in the family vault in Muckross abbey, Killarney. He married (1858) Mary Sophie (d. 1891), daughter and co-heir of Sir John Ennis, 1st baronet of Ballinahown, Co. Westmeath; they had six sons.