23 August 2020

A reminder of Henry Grattan
200 years after his birth

The bust of Henry Grattan in Merrion Square, Dublin … he died 200 years ago in 1820 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Grattan passed virtually unnoticed earlier this summer. He died 200 years ago on 4 June 1820, and I was reminded of the man who gave his name to ‘Grattan’s Parliament’ and his contribution to the Irish tradition of parliamentary democracy when I saw his sculpture in Merrion Square, Dublin, earlier this month.

Henry Grattan was an politician and lawyer who campaigned for legislative freedom for the Irish Parliament in the late 18th century. He was an MP in the Irish House of Commons from 1775 to 1801 for Charlemont (1775-1790), Dublin City (1790-1798) and for Wicklow Borough (1800-1801), and an MP in Westminster from 1805 to 1820, first for Malton (1805-1806) and then for Dublin City (1806-1820).

Grattan has been described as a superb orator and a romantic. He demanded that Ireland should be recognised as an independent nation, while remaining linked to Britain by a common crown and a shared, common political tradition.

Grattan was born at Fishamble Street, close to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 3 July 1746 and was baptised in the nearby church of Saint John the Evangelist.

His father was James Grattan MP, of Belcamp Park, Co Dublin, and his mother Mary was a daughter of Thomas Marlay, Attorney-General of Ireland, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench.

Henry Grattan was educated at Drogheda Grammar School and Trinity College Dublin.

He spent some years in London in the late 1760s and early 1770s, and he visited pre-Revolutionary France in 1771. In London, he attended debates in the House of Commons regularly, and he enjoyed visiting the celebrated Grecian Coffee House in Devereux Court, where he got to know Oliver Goldsmith.

After studying at the Middle Temple, London, and the King's Inns, Dublin, he was called to the Irish Bar in 1772, but was drawn into politics by Henry Flood. He first entered Parliament as MP for Charlemont in 1775, with the support of the ‘Volunteer’ Earl of Charlemont.

Grattan soon became the leader of the national party, and secured the passage by the British House of Commons in 1783 of an Act that declared: ‘Be it enacted that the right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by his Majesty and the Parliament of that kingdom, in all cases whatever shall be, and is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time be questioned or questionable.’

In September that year, Grattan became a member of the Privy Council of Ireland in September 1783, but was expelled in 1798 in a reaction to the 1798 Rising. He opposed the Act of Union in 1800, but later sat as an MP in the Westminster Parliament.

He was re-admitted to the Privy Council on 9 August 1806. He died at Portman Square, London, on 4 June 1820, and was buried in Westminster Abbey close to the tombs of Pitt and Fox.

Sydney Smith said of Grattan: ‘No government ever dismayed him. The world could not bribe him. He thought only of Ireland; lived for no other object; dedicated to her his beautiful fancy, his elegant wit, his manly courage, and all the splendour of his astonishing eloquence.’

Apart from the bust in Merrion Square, there are statues of Grattan in College Green, Dublin, outside the former Irish Parliament, and in the Outer Lobby of the Palace of Westminster. Grattan Bridge on the River Liffey in Dublin links Parliament Street and Capel Street, but is usually known as Capel Street Bridge.

Henry Grattan and his parliamentary supporters … stucco work by James Comerford that once decorated the Irish House, close to Henry Grattan’s birthplace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday intercessions on
23 August 2020 (Trinity XI)

‘On this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16: 18) … a monastery built on a rock top in Meteora, Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Let us pray:

‘Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who has made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 124: 7)

We pray for the nations of the world:

We pray for our own government and all governments
that have tried to find ways of dealing with this crisis,
thanking God for the blessings
of wise decision makers and advisers …

We pray for the people of Beirut and Lebanon …
the people of the Middle East …

We pray for the local community:

We give thanks for frontline workers,
essential services that have kept working …
for our schools … the gardai …
for community volunteers …
for parents and carers of people with special needs …
for those who return to work … those who wait to return to work …
those who have no work to return to …
for business owners who try to keep going …
for those who work in difficult or oppressive working conditions …
for those who still live with fear …
for the people of Kildare …
for all prisoners …
for prisoners of conscience, prisoners of debt,
prisoners of loneliness, prisoners of their own minds …

In this time the Church calls Ordinary Time,
we give thanks for all the ordinary things
we have taken for granted.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16: 16).

We pray for the universal Church of God,
that it may remain ‘rock solid’ in its faith.

We pray for the bishops of the Church of Ireland
and the staff of the diocese and the Church
who have continued to work throughout this crisis.

We pray for our bishop, Kenneth, and his family,
and for your blessing on his ministry, mission and witness.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Church of the Province of South East Asia,
and the Most Revd Melter Tais,
Archbishop of South East Asia and Bishop of Sabah.

Throughout the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough,
for Archbishop Michael Jackson,
and for the people and priests of the diocese.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Church of Ireland Theological Institute
and those preparing for ordination.

We give thanks for and pray for your blessings on
the work of the Easter Vestries and Select Vestries in this group of parishes.

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’
(Matthew 16: 19)

We pray for those in need:

In our hearts, we name individuals, families, neighbours,
care homes, hospitals, voluntary groups …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated, at home or in hospital …
Alan … Margaret … Lorraine … Ajay…
We pray for those we have offered to pray for …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
We remember, and give thanks for, the faithful departed …
including Wayne Carney … Danny Ryan …
may their families find comfort and support in the prayers of friends …
May their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer for today in the Prayer Diary of
the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel),
the International Day for the Remembrance of
the Slave Trade and its Abolition:

Father of everlasting compassion, you see your children
growing up in a world of inequality, greed and oppression;
help them to learn from the mistakes of history,
in terror and adrift,
and to build a better world, where your values are shared
by all. Amen.

Merciful Father …

These intercessions were prepared for Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Sunday 23 August 2020 (Trinity XI)