John MacHale [Archbishop] (1791-1881)

[or M’Hale; err. McHale; in Irish, Mac Eil;] b. Tobbernavine, Tirawley, Co. Mayo; son of Pádraig Mór, a prosperous farmer with an inn of the coach road between Sligo and Castlebar; his br. Fr. Richard MacHale narrowly escaped from the Irish College in the French Revolution, instilling anti-Republican sentiments in him; reputedly sent by Fr. Conroy (later hanged at Castlebar) to tell the Irish families of the region to come to the support of Gen. Humbert and the French force of invasion; resolved by executions after the Rebellion of 1798 to ‘expose the misdeeds of those who ruled Ireland’; ed. hedgeschool and Maynooth, 1807; ord. 1814;
succeded Dr. De la Hague as Prof. of Theology at Maynooth, 1820-25; attacked system of religious education in schools as ‘Hierophilos’ in letters to Dublin Journal from 1820, achieving a Junius-like fame in Ireland; actively supported Daniel O’Connell and Catholic Emancipation; called ‘the Lion of St Jarlath’s’ by O’Connell (facetiously rendered as ‘the lion of the tribe of Dan’), and conducted lengthy correspondence with him; appt. co-adjutor to Dr. Waldron, Bishop of Killala, Co. Mayo, 1825 [err. Killaloe, MacManus, 1952]; supported Bishop Doyle (JKL) in attacks on prosletysing spirit of the Kildare Place Soc., 1826, and also attacked Tithe system;
travelled to London and attempted unsuccessfully to secure aid from government in partial famine of 1830; spent 16 months in Rome for reasons of health; succeeded Dr. Kelly as Archbishop of Tuam, 1834, contrary to British advice to the Vatican; resisted Education Act and supported denominational education in his diocese; supported Repeal Association; opposed non-denominational national schools proposed under National Education scheme; ‘godless’ colleges (i.e., Queen’s Colleges); visited Achill, 1835, and settled Franciscan Monks of the Third Order on the island to combat proselytism of Rev. Edward Nangle; worked for victims of Great Famine, and assailed government of Lord Russell with communications; advocated ‘fasting’ during the Famine, and pointed to the ‘wrath of God’;
virulently opposed Young Ireland especially regarding the ecumenism and mixed education; travelled to Rome to raise papal rescripts condemning the Queen’s Colleges as ‘grave danger to faith of Catholics’ and ‘dangerous to faith and morals’, 1847, 1848; opposed Newman’s policy as Rector of Catholic University, 1854 (‘there should no longer be any doubt or ambiguity regarding the exclusive right of the bishops to legislate and make all appointments’, Letters, 20 Feb. 18[5]2); his influence declined in comparison with Paul Cullen, whom he recommended for Armagh, but whom he expressly opposed in relation to Fr. Lavelle, Frederick Lucas, and other matters of political life; supported Tenant Right but opposed Land League in Connacht, denouncing proposed Irishtown meeting; native Irish speaker;
opposed the evangelism of Rev. Alexander Dallas in Galway centres; engaged in long-term tussle with Archbishop MacEvilly of Galway, who secured papal permission to occupy archepiscopal palace at Tuam; denounced Ladies’ Land League (with Edward McCabe, Archbishop of Dublin); attended Vatican Council of 1870 and voted against Infallibility, but submitted to decision of the enclave; a native Irish speaker, he published poems, textbooks, a diocesan catechism and devotional works in Irish; trans. Moore’s Melodies into Irish (‘their native language’), 1841; translated The Way of the Cross as Toras na Chroice (1854); trans. Pentateuch (1861) as part of the Maynooth translation of the Bible; trans. Homer’s Iliad (Bk. 1 1844; Bk. II 1851; Bk. III 1851; Bk. IV 1857; Bks. V & VI 1860; Bk. VII 1871); there is a portrait of MacHale by Sam. Watson (1908). CAB ODNB DIB DIW DIH JMC OCIL

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The Evidences and Doctrines of the Catholic Church, new edn.; same, Letters including those publ. under the signatures of Hierophilos, Bishop of Maronia, Bishop of Killala, and Archbishop of Tuam; same, An Irish Translation of the Holy Bible from the Latin Vulgate with a corresponding English Version, chiefly from the Douai, with Notes from the most distinguished commentators, vol. 1 (Gen. to Josue. [Joshua]); same, the first six books of Homer’s Iliad, translated into verse on corr. pages the Original Greek and Irish translation; same, Moore’s Melodies, translated into Irish. [See endpapers adds to J. T. Gilbert, Esq., History of the Viceroys of Ireland, 1865.]

See also ‘Beatha Sheaghain Mhic Heil Ardeaspoig Thuama’ [John McHale, sic] by Very Rev. U. J. Canon Bourke, printed serially in Gaelic Journal (Nov.-Dec. 1882 to Nov.-Dec. 1883); Kieran Waldron, The Archbishops of Tuam 1700-2000 (Tuam: Nordlaw Books 2008).

Note: there is an MS letter to William Keogh MP and John Reynolds MP, replying to an invitation to attend a meeting to oppose the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, 1851 [NLI MS33, 011.]

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Hilary Andrews, The Lion of the West: A Biography of Archbishop John MacHale (Veritas 2001). There is an elegy in Irish by Daniel Lynch (Caoine air Sh. Mac Heil aispeag Thuama).

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Thomas Moore, “Epistle form Henry of Ex-t-r to John of Tuam”: ‘Dear John, as I know, like our brother of London, / You’ve sipp’d of all knowledge, both sacred and mundane, / No doubt, in some ancient Joe Miller, you’ve read / What Cato, that cunning old Roman, once said / That he ne’er saw two rev’rend soothsayers meet, / Let it be where it might, in the shrine or the street, / Without wondering the rogues, ’mid their solemn grimaces, / Didn't burst out a laughing in each other’s faces. / What Cato then meant, though ’tis so long ago, / Even we in the present times pretty well know; / Having soothsayers also, who-sooth to say, / John Are no better in some points than those of days gone, / And a pair of whom, in meeting (between you and me), / Might laugh in their sleeves, too - all lawn though they be. / But this, by the way- my intention being chiefly / In this, my first letter, to hint to you briefly, / That, seeing how fond you of Tuum must be, / While Meum’s at all times the main point with me / We scarce could do better than form an alliance, / To set these sad Anti-Church times at defiance: / You, John, recollect, being still to embark, / With no share in the firm but your title and mark; / Or ev’n should you feel in your grandeur inclin’d / To-call yourself Pope, why, I shouldn’t much mind; / While my church as usual holds fast by your Tuum, / And every one else’s, to make it all Suum. // Thus allied, I’ve no doubt we shall nicely agree, / As no twins can be liker, in most points than we; / Both, specimens choice of that mixd sort of beast (See Rev. xiii. 1.) a political priest; / Both mettlesome chargers, both brisk pamphleteers, / Ripe and ready for all that sets men by the ears; / And I, at least one, who would scorn to stick longer / By any giv’n cause than I found it the stronger, / And who, smooth in my turnings as if on a swivel, / When the tone ecclesiastic won’t do, try the civil. / In short (not to bore you, ev'n jure divino) / We've the same cause in common, John - all but the rhino; / And that vulgar surplus, whate’er it may be, / As you’re not us’d to cash, John, you’d best leave to me. / And so, without form-as the postman won’t tarry / I’m, dear Jack of Tuam, Yours, EXETER HARRY.’ [See ftns., 1. Mirari si augur augurem aspiciens sibi temperaret a risu; 2. So spelled in those ancient versicles which John, we understand, frequently chants: “Had every One Suum, / You would’nt have Tuum / But I should have Meum, / And sing Te Deum.” [Orth.: Won’t spelt as wo’n’t, passim.] (Poetical Works, 1848 Edn., p.567.)

Thomas Carlyle, Reminiscences of My Irish Journey in 1849 (1882), references incl. “John of Chume” (for McHale); [194]; McHale’s ugly Cathedral [195]; Westport Workhouse, ‘Human swinery has here reached its acme’ [201]; Ballina [207]; ‘Archbishop McHale, John of “Chume”, was born hereabouts, peasant-farmer’s son. given a vivacious greedy soul with this grim outlook vacant of all but the eternal crags and skies, and for reading of life’s huge riddle, an Irish Mass-book only - and [one] had a glimpse of “John of Chume” - poor devil, after all!’ [209]. (See under Thomas Carlyle, infra.)

J. M. Synge [speaking of a sailor that he meets on Aran]: ‘He began to criticise Archbishop MacHale’s version of Moore’s Irish Melodies with great severity and acuteness, citing whole poems both in the English and Irish, and then giving versions that he had made himself. / “A translation is no translation” he said, “unless it will give you the music of a poem along with the words of it. In my translation you won’t find a foot or a syllable that’s not in the English, yet I’ve put down all his words mean, and nothing but it. Archbishop MacHale’s work is a most miserable production.” / From the verses he cited his judgment seemed perfectly justified, and even if he was wrong, it is interesting to note that this poor sailor and night-watchman was ready to rise up and criticise an eminent dignitary and scholar on rather delicate points of versification and the finer distinctions between old words of Gaelic.’ (J. M. Synge, The Aran Islands, Pt. III, in Collected Works, II [Prose], p.149.)

Note - this transaction is the subject of a description by Alan Titley in ‘The Irish Language and Synge’, in Nailing Theses: Selected Essays (Belfast: Lagain Press 2011): ‘At the end of part 3 of The Aran Islands he recalls a discussion about the Irish language with an islander who had travelled the world. Interestingly they discuss Archbishop MacHale's translations of the Iliad and Moore's Irish Melodies. The man found the “most miserable” produtions, which might be seen to be a charitable assessment. They then fall to discussing the future of the language as Irish speakers inevitably do. The man argues that it “can never die out ... because there’s no family in the place can live without a bit of a field for the potatoes, and they have only the Irish words for all that they do in the fields.” [...] Synge merely reports what he hears, and doesn’t enter into the discussion. He is a passive observer, noting, watching, listening.’ (p.133.)

Francis MacManus, ed., M. J. MacManus, Adventures of an Irish Bookman (Talbot Press 1952), ‘John MacHale - Maynooth Man’, pp.13-23. Note, ‘... does not provide any problem of psychological analysis. John of Tuam was a simple man. ... Simplicity and greatness as we know from scores of instances in history, can go together.’ [p.14]; ‘Professor MacHale, however, was not merely a man of the people; he was a Gael of the Gaels, one from whose lips there frequently came the old Gaelic proverb which - loosely translated - says: ‘Victory and success to the Irish Race over the English’. [19]; ‘told O’Connell plainly that it was the duty of the Irish members in the British House of Commons to preserve an independent front and that entangling alliances with British parties would be bound to destroy their freedom of action.’ [21]; ‘uncompromising and pugnacious ... in educational matters’ [21]; quotes C. G. Duffy: ‘In a Catholic country, where a Protestant church was profusely endowed out of the earnings of the people, and a Protestant university out of the confiscation of Catholic lands, and where education had been an agent for proselytism for two hundred years, his precautions were neither unreasonable nor excessive.’ [22] MacHale wrote to the Prime Minister objecting to the paltry sum voted for Ireland in the Famine: ‘£50,000 ... it is not so many years ago since four times that sum was squandered on the pageant of a king’s coronation.’ [22]; supported Tenant League as being aimed at abolishing ‘the most ruthless oppression that ever disgraced the annals of humanity’ [22]. MacManus considers that ‘no man in Ireland was able to mould popular opinion to a greater degree or used his power to better purpose.’ [23] Times obit. reported, ‘as far back as the living memory of man extends his name has been identified with the most stirring events in the political life of his country’ [23]; ‘a great son of Maynooth’ [END 23].

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Ambrose Macauley, William Crolly - Archbishop of Armagh 1835-49 (Dublin: Four Courts 1994), for remarks on McHale, the subject of that book having been Bishop of Down and Connor from 1825.

Donald Torchiana, Backgrounds for Joyce’s “Dubliners” (1986), remarks on McHale [or MacHale, as Joyce calls him], illustrating from a speech at Castlebar in which he defends Pius IX against criticism of his Infallibility dogma, in one long and ungracious rant otherwise laced with condemnations of English, Turks, and Jews, ‘Much as the English may boast their excellence in the works of fiction, they outrage in this instance the laws of fiction itself. Story tellers of more dramatic skill would have selected times and countries far more remote for the exhibition of their horrors. The passionate descriptions of the Pope’s tyranny might have done very well in distant days [... ...] it is too much even for the insolence of an English press, except through the stupid and bigoted and brutalised portion of its own population, to strive to persuade the world of an Italian oppression which has not been felt, and of the weight of a Papal tyranny that has no existence (enthusiastic cheering).’ The passage is taken from The Great Catholic Demonstration ... held at Castlebar, Mayo, Jan. 7, 1860 (Dublin: AM Sullivan 1860). The ODNB states, ‘most of his English writings are turgid and violent, without being forcible’.

James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), ‘Intelligentsia Fiction, 1900-1922’ [Pt. II], discussion of Joyce’s depiction of the anti-intellectualism of Irish Catholicism in the Dubliners story “Grace”: ‘In the end Cunningham persuades Kernan into going to the retreat with the pièce de résistance of theological anecdotes of religious loyalty and submission, the apocryphal story of Archbishop John MacHale [sic] of Tuam’s submission to the doctrine of papal infallibility in spite of his reservations about it.’ (p.145.)

James S. Donnelly, ‘Mass Eviction and the Great Famine’, in Portéir, ed., The Great Famine, RTÉ/Mercier 1995, quoting: ‘the people received only the chilling assurance that in those deaths, however numerous, there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional! It is, then, it seems, no matter what may be the amoutn of the people’s sufferings, or what may be the number of those who fall victims to the Famine, provided that nothing illegal or unconstitutional is done in vindicating the rights of property.’ (Nation, 15 April, 1848; Donnelly, p.159.) Further: ‘and what is the fate of the Irish priesthood if they represent those scenes [of eviction’ to call for the charity of the humane or the justice of the legislature? They are denounced as distuberes of the public peace who interfere with the sacred rights of property … Their appeals are deemed importunate; their publications … of the heart-rending evictions oft he small tenantry are considered inconvenient; and like the prophet of old, they are stigmatised by an allied band of corrupt courtiers and apostates mercenaries as the “troublers of Israel”.’; ‘How ungrateful of the Catholics of Ireland not to pour forth canticles of gratitude to the [Whig] ministers, who promsied that none of them should perish and then suffered a million to starve.’ (Nation, 29 Jan. 1848; Donnelly, p.170.)

John F. Fallon, “Irishman’s Diary” [column], in The Irish Times ([?]12 Feb. 2000), writes: The Lion of the WEst, Dr John MacHale, became, after Cardinal Cullen of Dublin, the most formidable Catholic prelate in 19th-century Ireland. Even before his appointment to Tuam in 1834 his stature had grown through his political writings addressed to the British establishment which ranged from the necessity for Catholic education for the Irish people to warnings against the insidious activities of the Bible societies along the western seaboard. / He rallied a demoralised people who were prey to the soupers [...] In the view of the Archbishop, the national schools were anti-Catholic since most of the Board members were Protestant, and as English was the sole medium of instruction, and Irish history was neglected, they were anti-Irish. Despite the generous funding offered, MacHale denounced every aspect of the scheme including the Board’s textbooks. Taking such a lone and intransigent stand, the question of how the children of his Archdiocese wer to be educated had to be faced. MacHale’s answer [...] was the introduction of the Franciscan Brothers - his footsoldiers in the fight against perversion and in the pursuit of an education in which a spirit of religtion would inform the whole work of the school. / In the context of today’s well-financed primary education system, the Archbishop’s austere plan of monastic schooling had more than a touch of medievalism [...]’. Further remarks that by 1865, 11 communities had schools independent of the Board with Franciscan houses in Clifden, Tourmakeady, Achill and Roundstone. The Roundstone Monastery was sold to the IDA in 1974 as a site for indigenous craft centre and the building bulldozed. Fallon asks why it oculd not have been converted an appropriate use.

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Letter to Robert Peel, P.M. (24 Jan. 1845), ‘Nothing but separate grants for separate education will every give satisfaction to the Catholics of Ireland.’ (Quoted in Mgr O’Reilly, Life of Archbishop McHale, I, p.570; cited in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850, Vol. 1, 1980, p.85, with remarks: ‘there was not and there would never be any possible ground for understanding between an archbishop who wrote to Robert Peel [as quoted] and a liberal of Thomas Davis’s ilk whose every effort strained towards secular democracy [‘The objections to separate education are immense ... (&c.)’, Davis].


Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (1904), gives ‘Letter from the Place of his Birth’; note also that Justin Huntley McCarthy reviewed his translation of Homer: ‘One of the finest translations of the Iliad, or rather a portion of the Iliad, into any foreign language is the late Archbishop M’Hale’s Irish rendering of some of the early books of the great epic.’ (Dublin Univ. Review, [Oct.] 1885).

Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers [rev. 1 vol. edn.] (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), Irish Section, records that he was deeply affected by Killala landing and the hanging of a parish priest in 1798; ordained 1814; Theol. Prof. at Maynooth, 1820-25; Archb. of Tuam, 1834; ‘the lion of St. Jarlath’s’; opposed Newman’s Catholic University plans; in Irish, Mac Eil, he had ‘a fine knowledge of Irish but very little knowledge of Irish literature.’ Trans. Homer, the Pentateuch, and Moore’s songs into Irish; but failed to use Irish prosody; works incl. An Teasasg Criostaighe (1839); Turas na Croiche (1855), trans. of St. Alfonso Liguori’s Way of the Cross; Craobh Urnaighe Crábhaighe (1853). Also cited under Peadar Ó Laoghaire, whom he influenced to work for Irish language revival.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day co. 1991), Vol. 2, comments on Archbishop MacHale, well-known for his militantly catholic view of current political issues - like that of the proposed new university system on which his and O’Connell’s clashed with the non-sectarian Davis - wrote to Lord John Russell on 15 Dec. 1846 with a heightened version of the argument for repeal, now buttressed by his account of the spectacular distress of the country. In this letter, he indicated what was to become the widely shared view of left and right wing commentators, ‘Such is now the frightful state of this country, brought on, as it were, by a systematic collusion between the Irish landlords and the English legislature, and to which Ireland never would have been reduced, had she the protection of a native parliament. The famine has not, it is true, directly sprung from the Union. But severe as it is, it would not be so fatal, if Ireland had not been rendered too feeble to cope with the calamity, by the emaciating process to which it had been previously subjected.’ According to MacHale Ireland had been feeding England for 46 years with the choicest beef and wheat ... [Seamus Deane, ed.], 118; [opposition to ‘godless colleges’, 218n; supported Frederick Lucas, fndr. of The Tablet (1840), against Archb. Cullen’s bye-election intervention in 1854 , 254n; supported Fr. Lavelle’s lecture on ‘Catholic Doctrine of the right of Revolution’ against Cullen , 266; papal infallibility proclaimed against his wish and vote in 1870, 1022.

COPAC lists A brief reply to the charge of His Grace William Magee, Archbishop of Dublin: in two letters: the first, embracing His Grace's charge; the second, his commentaries (1823); Catholic emancipation, proved to be as necessary for the peace and prosperity of Ireland, as it is imperatively called for by the principles of justice, of freedom, and of the Christian religion: addressed to the Right Hon (George Canning, one of His Majesty's principal secretaries of state, &c (&c ((1824); Craobh urnnaighe crábhaighe tiomsuighithe as a sgríobhain dhiaga agus ranta toghta na h-eaglaisge (1853); The evidences and doctrines of the Catholic church (1828); An Irish translation of the Holy Bible: from the Latin Vulgate, with a corresponding English version, chiefly from the Douay: accompanied with notes from the most distinguished commentators (1861); An Irish translation of the book of Genesis, from the Latin Vulgate: With a corresponding English version, chiefly from the Douay: Accompanied with notes, from the most distinguished commentators: To be followed by that of the other books, in successive parts, to the close of the inspired writings (1859); An Irish translation of the book of Genesis, from the Latin vulgate with a corresponding English version, chiefly from the Douay (1859); Letters of Hierophilos to the English people, on the moral and political state of Ireland: demonstrating the inefficacy of the remedies hitherto applied to its evils through the means of Bible societies 1822); The letters of the Most Reverend John Mac Hale, D.D (1847), and do. [another edn.] The letters 1820-1834 (1893); Letters to the English people on the moral and political state of Ireland, demonstrating the inefficacy of the remedies hitherto applied to its evils through the means of Bible societies , Archbishop of Tuam (1822); The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; translated from the Latin Vulgate; diligently compared with the original Greek; and first published by the English College at Rheims, A.D (1582 with annotations, a chronological index, table of references, etc (With the approbation of his Grace the Most Rev Dr Mac Hale, Archbishop of Tuam (1846); ed., A selection of the most national and popular of Moore's melodies (1899); Substance of the speech of the Rev Robert J M'Ghee: at the Protestant meeting held in the West Church, Edinburgh, on Monday 1st February 1836, with an appendix containing letter from Dr Murray to the Roman Catholic bishop of Glasgow, Mr M'Ghee's reply, his challenge to Dr M'Hale, &c (1836); An t-Iliad [by] Homerus (1844); An t'Íliad: air chogadh no Tróighe ro chan Homear, air-dríghthe o Ghreag-Bhearla go ran Gaoidhilge / Homer (1844); An t'Íliad: air chogadh no Tróighe ro chan Homear, air-dríghthe o Ghreag-Bhearla go ran Gaoidhilge / Homer (1844); Toras na Croiche / [Saint] Alfonso Maria de Liguori, 1696-1787 (1854). Also, Pamphlets on the Catholic emancipation in England, 1829 / California State Library (Sutro Branch (1940); Edward Nangle, The pastoral of the Roman Catholic Archbishops & Bishops of Ireland [5th August, 1859] (1859).

University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds MacHale, An t-Iliad (Guidinnain, 1844) 380pp; BELF holds a biography by Burke, Ulick J., Life and Times of John Mac Hale (1882) [See Canon Bourke, supra]. CATL, The Evidences and Doctrines of the Catholic Church, new edn. (1852) [Hyland 1999].

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Manchester Martyrs: ‘MacHale himself assisted at the High Mass for the Manchester Martyrs [1867] when Cullen believed that the real object of these High masses was to promote Fenianism. (Donal McCartney, ‘The Church and Fenianism’, in Maurice Harmon, ed., Fenians and Fenianism, Washington UP 1968, q.p.; [all cited in James Fairhall, James Joyce and The Question of History, Cambridge UP 1993).

Joyce connection: a character in the “Grace” story of Dubliners says, ‘I once saw John MacHale and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.’

Sorry but ...: McHale sent telegram to Justin McCarthy in the wake of Parnell’s Manifesto, beginning, ‘All sorry for Parnell; but still, in God’s name, let him retire quietly ... if he does not retire, alliance will be dissolved, election lost, Irish Party seriously damaged ... Home Rule indefinitely postponed, coercion perpetrated, evicted tenants hopelessly crushed, and the public conscience outraged.’ (See Emmet Larkin, The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell, Carolina UP 1979; cited in James Fairhall, James Joyce and The Question of History, Cambridge UP 1993).

Fergus O’Ferrall: ‘MacHale issued his famous ‘Hierophilos’ letter in the early 1820s, attacking Protestantism and maintaining that Catholic doctrine was not ‘incompatible with true liberality’. He urged that the doctrines of the Church were a ‘moral obligation’ and that ‘there is no question of the application of physical force or civil enactments; to support them; he sought British liberties for Irish Catholics, defining his terms after Blackstone, ‘civil liberty ... is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws (and no further) as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public.’ (‘Liberty and Catholic Politics 1790-1990’, in Daniel O’Connell, Political Pioneer, ed. Maurice R. O’Connell, 1991), pp.35-56; p.46.)

Sean O’Faolain remarks on MacHale’s insistence on the ‘exclusive right of the bishops to make all appointments’ in the Catholic University is the subject of remarks (The Irish, 1947, p.119f.)

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), appears to cite in error McHale, Odyssey, trans., completed in 1874.

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