This is not a fictional character – Parnell was a famous Irish politician and nationalist. His politics was predicted to make Ireland independent from England, and the radical part of the Irish society believed him to be a national hero. But he has a love affair with a married woman, Kitty O'Shea, which provoked the downfall of his career due largely to the reaction of the Church. When the liaison became public knowledge, his deed was condemned by Catholics which damaged his reputation and repelled the religious supporters. Parnell never appears in the narrative, but his life and death have caused arguments among Irish population. The society split into two rival camps for and against his condemnation.
Charles Stewart Parnell in the Essays