On 20 Nov 2019 Dr Tom McGrath of Carlow College, St Patrick’s gave a talk on ‘Bishop Doyle (JKL) and Daniel O’Connell’.
There was a large turn-out for the Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society’s public lecture on the relationship between Bishop Doyle (JKL) and Daniel O’Connell.
The audience were treated to a fascinating full scale assessment of the many twists and turns in the very important relationship between O’Connell and Dr Doyle who were respectively the lay and religious leaders of Catholic opinion in Ireland in the age of Emancipation. James Doyle was consecrated as bishop of Kildare and Leighlin exactly two hundred years ago in November 1819.
The lecture was delivered in Carlow College, St Patrick’s by the historian Dr Thomas Mc Grath, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar of the College. Dr Mc Grath has published a three volume study of Bishop Doyle.
Dr Mc Grath explained that Catholic Emancipation was about the right of Catholics to sit in parliament and also the removal of the remaining penal laws which made Catholics second class citizens.
When O’Connell founded the Catholic Association in 1823, Bishop Doyle became its most prominent episcopal supporter. He was regularly praised at its meetings for his many publications on all aspects of the state of Ireland. Doyle supported the penny-a-month Catholic rent campaign which was initiated in 1824.
In 1825 it seemed likely that a Catholic Emancipation bill would pass through the houses of parliament in London but ultimately it did not. O’Connell was blamed by many of his own supporters for conceding too much in return for Emancipation which he had not, after all, achieved. O’Connell tried to spread the blame by involving the bishops. Doyle was not prepared to accept this. Matters came to head at a stormy meeting of Leinster Catholics in Carlow College where O’Connell had to fight for his political survival.
Doyle strongly supported O’Connell when he stood in the Clare bye-election in 1828. He constantly advised O’Connell on the right course of action for Ireland. He was publicly supportive of O’Connell but often privately critical of him for his demagoguery.
After Emancipation was conceded by Wellington’s government in 1829, Doyle took the view that O’Connell was wasting his time pursuing Repeal of the Union in the period 1830-1834 because he was not going to be able to achieve it. Doyle argued that O’Connell should be securing beneficial legislative reform for Ireland (which was what O’Connell did in the second half of the 1830s).
The relationship between Doyle and O’Connell reached its lowest ebb in 1832. O’Connell at first declared his support for Doyle’s position on the support of the poor based on parish assessment with the main burden falling on landlords. Then O’Connell changed his mind. Bishop Doyle died in 1834 at the age of forty-seven and was buried in Carlow Cathedral which he had built.
The audience enjoyed a memorable lecture on the inside story of what Dr Mc Grath called a ‘clash of Titans’. The lecturer praised both men who, he said, each in his own way, made a powerful contribution to the advancement of the cause of Ireland.