Oliver Jones (judge)

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Oliver Jones (c.1610-1682) was an Irish politician and judge of the seventeenth century; he was noted for his Roman Catholic sympathies, and for his willingness to change sides during the English Civil War.

He was born in Athlone, the third son of John Jones, a merchant, and Jane Messett.[1] He was admitted to the King's Inns in 1638.[2] He entered the Irish House of Commons as member for Athlone in 1639. He was widely believed to have Roman Catholic sympathies, and as a result clashed with the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Strafford and with Richard Bolton, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland; after Strafford's downfall in 1641 Jones was active in the impeachment of his key ally, Lord Chancellor Bolton.[3]

Amidst the general turmoil which followed the Irish Rebellion of 1641, little is known of his activities until 1649, when he was appointed Attorney General for the province of Connacht. In 1652, despite his supposed Roman Catholic beliefs, he was prepared to swear an oath to be true and faithful to the Cromwellian regime.[4] After the Restoration of Charles II, this was not held against him (as several of his new colleagues on the Bench had also made their peace with Cromwell): he was restored to his old office, returned to the House of Commons as member for Roscommon County, and was then living in Roscommon Castle.[5] In 1662 he became Chief Justice of Connacht, and made a valuable ally in the Lord President of Connaught, Lord Berkeley.[6] As a judge he was noted for willingness to do impartial justice to Roman Catholics, which no doubt fuelled the general belief that he was a Catholic himself.[7]

In 1670, Berkeley, during his relatively brief term as Lord Lieutenant, promoted Jones to a seat on the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland), and he was transferred in 1672 to the Court of King's Bench (Ireland).[8] This promotion no doubt caused some comment in view of his known leaning towards Catholicism; but in post-Restoration Ireland the religious atmosphere was relatively tolerant, especially in the early 1670s, and Jones was far from being the only High Court judge known to Catholic leanings.[9] He was even spoken of as a possible Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1673, although his presumed religious beliefs probably did disqualify him on that occasion. He continued to go regularly as judge of assize to Connacht.[10]

He died in 1682 and was buried in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He was married with children, although little seems to be known of his family.[11]


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 p.353
  2. ^ Kenny, Colum The King's Inn and the Kingdom of Ireland Irish Academic Press Dublin 1992 p.280
  3. ^ Ball p.353
  4. ^ Ball p.286
  5. ^ Ball p.353
  6. ^ Ball p.353
  7. ^ Maxwell-Perceval, M. Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 McGill-Queen's University Press 1994 p.133
  8. ^ Ball p.353
  9. ^ Ball p,286
  10. ^ Burke, Oliver Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit Hodges Figgis Dublin 1885 p.54
  11. ^ Ball p.353