Dermot O'Hurley

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The Most Reverend
Dermot O'Hurley
Archbishop of Cashel
Archdiocese Cashel
Appointed September 1581
Term ended 19 or 20 June 1584
Predecessor Maurice MacGibbon
Successor David Kearney
Ordination 9 September 1581
Consecration 10 September 1581
by Pope Gregory XIII
Personal details
Born c. 1530
Lickadoon Castle, Lickadoon, Ballyneety, County Limerick, Lordship of Ireland
Died 19 or 20 June 1584
Dublin, Kingdom of Ireland
Buried St. Kevin's Church, Camden Row, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents William O'Hurley
Alma mater University of Leuven
Feast day 20 June
Venerated in Ireland
Title as Saint Blessed
Beatified 27 September 1992
Vatican City,
by Pope John Paul II
Shrines St. Kevin's Church, Camden Row, Dublin, Ireland

Dermot O'Hurley (c. 1530 – 19 or 20 June 1584; Dermod or Dermond O'Hurley, Irish: Diarmaid Ó hUrthuile) was a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth I who was put to death for treason. He was one of the most celebrated of Irish Catholic Martyrs, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 September 1992.[1]


Early life[edit]

O'Hurley was born in Lickadoon Castle, Lickadoon, Ballyneety, County Limerick, around the year 1530. Dermot's father, William, was the O'Hurley clan's Chief of the Name and steward to James FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond. As such, he was a member of the O'Hurley clan, who claim descent from the Dál gCais, one of the more powerful Irish clans in Munster's history.

O'Hurley was educated by tutors and then sent to Flemish Brabant to study at the University of Leuven.[2] In 1551 he graduated with a Master of Arts degree, then a doctorate of Law and was appointed a professor of philosophy in one of that university’s greater colleges, where he remained for 15 years. In 1574 he was appointed a professor of both canon and civil law for the Faculty of Law of Reims University, where he spent 4 years.[3]

Fugitive Archbishop[edit]

In 1570 Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I of England in the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis. This led to the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1579-83, which was still in progress at the time of his voyage. On 11 September 1581, while still a layman, Pope Gregory XIII appointed him Archbishop of Cashel. He was ordained and consecrated and in 1583 set out on his mission.[3] O'Hurley's voyage was fraught with danger but he was prepared to take the risks involved. He arranged for a sea captain from Drogheda to smuggle him into Ireland. He was deposited on Holmpatrick Strand in County Dublin in the autumn of 1583. His letters, which had been sent via a different ship, were intercepted by the priest hunters.

Through its elaborate spy system, the government in Dublin had knowledge of Dermot's appointment to the See of Cashel and Elizabeth's spies were soon on his tracks. He never reached Cashel.[3] O'Hurley lodged with Thomas Fleming, 10th Baron Slane, at Slane, and from there he spread his activities through the territory of the O'Reilly clan. While sheltering at Slane Castle he was recognised. Under pain of severe penalties Fleming was ordered to arrest O'Hurley who had by then left Slane. O'Hurley was arrested at Carrick-on-Suir in September 1583, while staying with Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond, a Protestant, referred to as dubh (the black), who was the Lord Treasurer of Ireland at the time. Butler was much offended and distressed at the arrest, and afterwards did his best to rescue O'Hurley from the executioners.[4] On 8 October 1583 O'Hurley was imprisoned in Dublin Castle.


Upon his arrest, his interrogators claimed that he had been a member of the Roman Inquisition. Some recent historians have suggested that he continued his work as a professor of canon law. However, no documents of his activities there survive.

St. Kevin's in Camden Row, burial place of O'Hurley

Despite severe torture, which included having his legs boiled over a roaring fire,[4] O'Hurley refused to embrace Protestantism. According to surviving correspondence between Dublin and Whitehall, Elizabeth I was reluctant to dispense with a fair trial under English Law, but her mind was changed by Sir Francis Walsingham and she approved of a trial by military tribunal. O'Hurley was tried in a day and sentenced to death.

The Chancellor, learning that Butler was coming, by whose influence and power they feared O'Hurley would be saved, determined to put him to death as soon as possible.[4] In the early morning of 19,[5][6][7] or 20,[1][8] June 1584, O'Hurley was taken outside the walls of Dublin and hanged at Hoggen Green. In his last speech, he proclaimed,

Be it therefore known unto you...that I am a priest anointed and also a Bishop, although unworthy of soe sacred dignitites, and noe cause could they find against me that might in the least deserve the paines of death, but merely for my funcon of priesthood wherein they have proceeded against me in all pointes cruelly contrarie to their own lawes ...and I doe injoin you (Deere Christian Brethren) to manifest the same to the world and also to beare witness on the Day of Judgment of my Innocent death, which I indure for my function and profession of the most holy Catholick Faith.[9]

He was buried in St. Kevin's Church, Camden Row, Dublin. His gravesite remained a site of pilgrimage for many years.


As word of his execution spread, O'Hurley was immediately revered as a martyr by Catholics throughout Europe. Several accounts of his life and death were printed and reached a wide audience.

Following Catholic Emancipation in the 19th century, Ireland's Roman Catholic hierarchy began an investigation into his life and death. One of the most valuable resources was found to be the documents and letters written by the men who tortured and executed him. In 1904, he was declared a Servant of God.

On 27 September 1992, O'Hurley was beatified by Pope John Paul II, alongside 16 other Irish martyrs.[10]

See also[edit]