Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Reilly, Edmund (1606-1669)

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O'REILLY, EDMUND (1606–1669), Roman catholic archbishop of Armagh, was born in 1606 in Dublin (O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees, i. 743). After pursuing his studies, perhaps at the college in Dame Street, Dublin, which was suppressed in 1629, O'Reilly was appointed to the government of a parish in his native diocese. In 1633 he went to Louvain, where he resided in the Irish secular college, and continued his studies under the Jesuits and Franciscans. Not long after, he was appointed prefect of the college of Irish secular ecclesiastics. Returning to Ireland in 1641, he again undertook the duties of a parish priest, but was soon appointed vicar-general of the diocese of Dublin, in which capacity he administered the see from 1642 to 1648, while the archbishop, Thomas Fleming [q. v.], was residing at Kilkenny.

He was an active agent of the Roman catholic party during the war, and in 1642 was governor of Wicklow. In 1649 he was deprived of the vicar-generalship, unjustly according to Renehan, but apparently on suspicion of having betrayed the English and Irish troops of Ormonde and Purcell at Baggotrath to Michael Jones [q. v.] According to D'Alton, O'Reilly's acts at this period were 'all of a violent political tendency; distrusting the sincerity of Ormonde, he joined in every uproar against cessation of hostilities and every religious cry against peace with the king.' In 1649 he was nearly killed by a band of robbers near Dublin. In the beginning of 1650 Archbishop Fleming restored him to the vicar-generalship. In 1652 he attended the synod of Leinster, held in Glenmalure Woods, and in 1653 he was arrested, imprisoned for some months, and then charged with a murder which occurred while he was governor of Wicklow. The trial lasted two days (6-7 Sept. 1654), and O'Reilly was found guilty, but received a pardon, due, according to Walsh and others, to his betrayal of the Irish troops to Michael Jones in 1049 (Carte, Life of Ormonde, iii. 467 ; Gilbert, History of the Irish Confederation, vii. 102).

O'Reilly, however, took refuge in the Irish College at Lille, where, according to Renehan, he received his promotion to the see of Armagh in 1654, and, proceeding to Brussels, was consecrated in the Jesuits' chapel. Brady, however, gives the date of his appointment as 16 April 1657, the pallium being sent him on 24 Sept. the same year. Returning from Brussels to Lille, O'Reilly proceeded to Calais, where he was introduced to Mazarin, who gave him pecuniary assistance and procured him a safe-conduct through England. He arrived in London in 1658, where, during a six weeks' stay, he secretly performed mass. Here he fell in with Peter Walsh [q.v.], whose acquaintance and enmity he had already acquired. Walsh is said to have procured an order for O'Reilly's arrest, and the archbishop again fled to France, but sailed thence, and landed in Ireland in 1659. He laboured with zeal in his diocese for a year and a half, but on the restoration of Charles II was represented to the court as an opponent of the Stuarts, and, on the intervention, of the Spanish ambassador, the pope, in/spite of a declaration in O'Reilly's favour Signed by the bishops and clergy of the province of Armagh, ordered him to withdraw from Ireland.

O'Reilly went to Rome, where he remained until 1665. In 1666 he was invited to attend the national synod of clergy at Dublin. Passing through Flanders, London, and Chester, he reached Dublin on 12 June, and vigorously opposed the 'Remonstrance,' a measure advocated by Ormonde and Walsh. Ormonde summoned him to the castle, and, in a private interview, endeavoured to win him over, but without success, and the measure was rejected unanimously by the synod. At its dissolution on 25 June, Ormonde issued an order for the arrest of all bishops who had attended it, and O'Reilly was kept in easy confinement for three months; he was then brought before the council, and ordered to leave Ireland, on the ground that he had endeavoured to excite a rebellion. On 25 Sept. he was sent to London, and thence, by way of Dover, to Calais. He now revisited the Irish Colleges at Louvain, Brussels, and Paris, where he spent most of his time. Several letters of his, dated at Paris between 1666 and 1669, in which he attacks Walsh, are given in Moran's 'Spicilegium Ossoriense.' He died at Saumur in March 1669.

O'Reilly must not be confused with his predecessor and kinsman, Hugh O'Reilly (1580-1653), son of one Mulmore O'Reilly, by his wife Honora, and uncle of Philip MacHugh O'Reilly [q. v.] Hugh was made bishop of Kilmore on June 1625, and translated to the archbishopric of Armagh on 5 May 1628. He took little part in the civil war, but declared against Ormonde's treaty of 1646. He buried Owen Roe O'Neill [q. v.] at Cavan, and died himself on Trinity Island in Lough Erne in February 1652-3. His remains were, however, removed, and interred in the same grave as his kinsman, another Mulmore O'Reilly, 'the slasher,' and Owen Roe O'Neill, in the Franciscan monastery at Cavan (cf. Meehan, Franciscan Monasteries, passim ; Brady, Episcopal Succession, i. 324-6, ii. 282 ; Gams, Series Episcoporum; Moran, Spicilegium Ossoriense, pasim, and Catholic Archb. of Dublin, pp. 344, 354; De Burgo, Hibern. Dom. pp. 884, 890).

[Walsh's Hist. and Vindication of the Irish Remonstrances gives an unfavourable account of O'Reilly; Moran's Spicilegium Ossoriense. passim; Memoirs of Dr. Oliver Plunket, and Historical Sketch of the Perscutions; Cox's Hibernia Anglicana, ii. 8; Hickson's Ireland in the Seventeenth Cent. ii. 171–2, 219, 230; Thurloe State Papers, ii. 374; McCarthy's Collections pp. 48–62; O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, ed. 1887, i. 743; D'Alton's Memoirs of the Archbishops of Dublin, pp. 406–7, 415; Carte's Ormonde, passim; Gilbert's Hist. of Confederation, vii. 102, 104, 117; Cogan's Diocese of Meath, ii. 102–3; Brady's Episcopal Succession; Gams's Series Episcoporum; Stuart's Armagh; O'Reilly's Irish Martyrs and Memorials of those who suffered for the Catholic Faith; Renehan's Collections on Irish Church History, pp. 48–62; Clarendon State Papers, iii. 275; Webb's Irish Biography.]

A. F. P.