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Bl Dermot O'Hurley and Companions

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Blessed Dermot O’Hurley was born close to Limerick City in the middle of the 16th century. His father, William O’Hurley, owned a small estate and was employed by the Norman Earl of Desmond, James Fitzgerald. As a young man, Dermot went to the University of Louvain to study and was commenced as a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Law. He then began teaching in the same university. In 1581, Pope Gregory XIII appointed Dermot as the Archbishop of Cashel on account of his piety and learning. Dermot was then ordained as a priest and consecrated as a bishop. The newly appointed archbishop returned to Ireland via Brittany.  

The archbishop landed in Drogheda, County Louth. He then travelled south towards his archdiocese. The situation in Ireland was very dangerous at the time. This was the period of the Second Desmond Rebellion in Munster, where the archbishop’s diocese was located. Partly motivated by the persecution of Catholics in Ireland, the Norman and Gaelic Catholics of the south of Ireland rebelled against the Protestant English Crown. The rebellion was ruthlessly crushed, with English troops often resorting to scorched earth tactics, which caused widespread famine as much as one-third of Munster’s population died. During and after the rebellion, the English authorities accelerated their persecution of Catholics. In this context, Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley travelled south towards his diocese, which was a war zone.

The archbishop stopped to rest in Slane during his journey and stayed with Thomas Fleming, the Baron of Slane. The baron’s wife, Catherine Preston, was a devout Catholic, so the archbishop believed he was in safe company. Word reached the authorities in Dublin Castle that the new Catholic Archbishop of Cashel had landed in Ireland. Agents of the Crown began to track him down. They arrived at Slane after the archbishop had left. The royal agents discovered that the Catholic bishop had stayed with the local baron. They then told the baron that he would need to assist with the archbishop’s arrest to avoid charges. The baron chased after the archbishop and caught up with him at the residence of Thomas Butler, the Earl of Ormond. The archbishop was staying there as a guest of the Earl of Ormond, who was a Protestant. The Baron of Slane arrested the archbishop against the Earl of Ormond’s loud protests. The archbishop was brought to Dublin and imprisoned in Dublin Castle.

The archbishop was subjected to horrendous torture in Dublin Castle. The objective was to get him to renounce the Catholic Faith and recognise the English Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, as the head of the Irish Church. The archbishop refused to leave the Faith. The most horrific torture involved his feet being boiled in oil over a fire. Much to his credit, the Protestant Earl of Ormond continued to lodge protests over the arrest and treatment of his guest. He even travelled to Dublin to attempt to have the archbishop released. This all failed. The Queen ordered for the archbishop to be tried under a military tribunal. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death in one day.

The archbishop was taken from Dublin Castle and hung until dead in the area in front of what is now Trinity College. He was buried close by but was later reburied by his friends in St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row. His grave became a pilgrimage site, and many miracles were credited to his intercession. On 27th September 1992, Dermot O’Hurley, the Archbishop of Cashel, was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II.

Account taken from ACN
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