Blessed Dermot O'Hurley (c. 1530 – 1584) - in Irish Diarmaid Ó hUrthuile - was a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel during the reign of Elizabeth I and was put to death for treason. He was one of the most celebrated of Ireland's Catholic martyrs, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 September 1992.


Early life

O'Hurley was born in Emly, County Tipperary, around the year 1530. As the son of William, chief of the O'Hurley clan and steward to the Earl of Desmond, he was descended from the Irish nobility. He was educated by tutors and then sent to France to study at the University of Leuven, where he was created professor of philosophy and Canon law. After four years in a high ranking post at the University of Rheims, he departed for Rome, probably around 1570.

Fugitive Archbishop

In 1581 O'Hurley was appointed Archbishop of Cashel by Pope Gregory XIII. After his consecration, he arranged for a sea captain from Drogheda to smuggle him into Ireland. He was deposited on Holmpatrick Strand in County Dublin in the year 1583. His letters, which had been sent via a different ship, were intercepted by the priest hunters.

In 1570 the Papacy had excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I in the bull "Regnans in Excelsis". This had led on to the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1579-83 which was still in progress at the time of his voyage. O'Hurley's voyage was fraught with danger but he was prepared to take the risks involved.

O'Hurley lodged with Baron Thomas Flemyng at Slane, and from there he spread his activities through the territory of the O'Reilly clan. His activities were followed by government spies, and under pain of severe penalties Flemyng was compelled to hand the archbishop into custody. On 8 October 1583 O'Hurley was imprisoned in Dublin Castle.


Upon his arrest, his interogators 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.

Despite severe torture, which included having his legs boiled over a roaring fire, the Archbishop refused to embrace Protestantism. According to surviving correspondence between Dublin and Whitehall, the Queen 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.

On the early morning of Saturday 20 June 1584 O'Hurley was taken outside the walls of Dublin and hanged. In his last speech, he proclaimed his innocence and declared that he died as a martyr for the Roman Catholic Church. He was buried in Saint Kevin's Churchyard. 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 subsequently 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.


"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."[1]
--Addressing the crowd which had gathered to watch his execution.


  1. "The Irish Martyrs," pages 76-77.


See also

External links

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