Daly, Denis (1747–91), politician, was born 24 January 1747, the eldest son of James Daly of Carrownakelly and Dunsandle, Co. Galway, and his second wife, Catherine Daly, the fifth daughter of Sir Ralph Gore (qv). Educated by a private tutor, he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1764, but there is no record of his taking his degree. There was a by-election in 1767, in which he decided to stand despite being under the legal age requirement, and he was returned for Galway borough. The following year he was elected for an open seat, and served as MP for Co. Galway (1768–90). He was also returned for Galway borough in 1783 but chose to represent the county. He was MP for Galway borough a second time, from 1790 until his death. Determined to control Galway corporation, he had a long struggle against the Blake family, which resulted in a duel in 1775 with Patrick Blake. Daly emerged victorious and afterwards his dominance in the area was assured; soon he and his cousin Denis Bowes Daly (qv) controlled the corporation.
Daly had a reputation as a great orator in parliament, though it was recognised that his talent was as a speaker rather than a debater: he excelled at delivering carefully structured speeches but lacked the confidence, or ability, to speak unprepared. For this reason he spoke only occasionally in parliament, and his main speeches were made in 1778 on the embargo question and in 1780–81 on the free-trade issue. It seems that his greatest defect was laziness: he was regularly unable to rouse himself to take a leading stand on the key political issues of the day. In 1780 he accepted office and became muster-master, with an income of £1,200. He opposed the Volunteers and the commercial propositions, despite much indecision, and in 1785, after their failure, he correctly predicted that John FitzGibbon (qv) would some day support a legislative union, despite his declamations to the contrary.
Widely respected as a parliamentarian and vote manager, Daly had a proud nature and a hot temper. His views were largely aristocratic and he feared democratic ideas, preferring to remain aloof from the people. Henry Grattan (qv) was a close friend and, after his death, claimed that had Daly lived the 1798 rebellion might have been averted, as he would have acted as a restraining influence on both the government and the people. A lifelong bibliophile, Daly built an extensive library collection, which was sold after his death for more than £2,300. He suffered from a nervous disorder and became more infirm in his later years, withdrawing increasingly from public life. He was struck by an attack during his final speech in the house of commons and was unable to continue after a couple of sentences.
He married Lady Henrietta Maxwell, the only daughter and heir of Robert, earl of Farnham, and his wife, Henrietta, dowager countess of Stafford, in July 1780. They had two sons and six daughters. The elder son, James (1782–1847), was MP for Co. Galway and was created Baron Dunsandle and Clan Conal in 1845. The younger son, Robert (1783–1872), was bishop of Cashel. Daly died at Dunsandle on 10 October 1791.