All of Edmund's educational activities were illegal in the eyes of the 'authorities' in Ireland at the time. His chief concern was for the poor, mainly boys and young men and he identified education as the key to survival. Most Irish Catholics were effectively cut off from education and consequently cut off from social and political progress.
By founding schools and teaching congregations, Edmund Rice, like Daniel O'Connell, was a liberator. That is one reason why O'Connell greatly admired the man he called "patriarch of the monks of the West". Appropriately, therefore, one of Edmund's first Dublin Schools, namely O'Connell School in North Richmond Street, was named after Daniel O’Connell.