Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Malley, Thadeus

Thaddeus O'Malley in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

O'MALLEY, THADEUS (1796–1877), political writer, born at Garryowen, near Limerick, in 1796, completed at the age of twenty-three his studies for the Roman catholic ministry. He obtained preferment in America; but, strong-willed and independent in spirit, he was in 1827 suspended by his ecclesiastical superior (Life of Bishop England). Returning to Dublin, he was attached to the cathedral in Marlborough Street, and officiated as an assistant priest under Archbishop Daniel Murray [q. v.]

Dr. James Warren Doyle [q.v.] , in opposition to O'Connell, had distinguished himself by his powerful advocacy of a legal provision for the Irish poor; and after the death of that prelate his mantle fell upon O'Malley, who, in a series of able public letters, resolutely demanded a poor law for Ireland. O'Malley also supported a system of national education, but was suspended by Dr. Murray because he addressed a very caustic letter to Archbishop MacHale in vindication of his own chief, whose public policy on the question of national education Dr. MacHale had severely impugned. After a short interval O'Malley was restored. To demonstrate his view on the subject, he published ‘A Sketch of the State of Popular Education in Holland, Prussia, Belgium, and France’ (2nd edition, 1840, 8vo). Subsequently he received from the government the appointment of rector of the catholic university of Malta; but having set on foot some reforms in discipline among the ecclesiastical students, he was rebuked and dismissed, O'Malley vainly urging that he ought not to yield to the behests of protestant laymen in matters wholly pertaining to his ecclesiastical functions. He returned to Dublin, and in 1845 started a newspaper entitled ‘The Social Economist,’ which soon fell into disfavour with the church in consequence of some articles deprecating the enforced celibacy of clerics. It was a vivacious periodical, one column of facetiæ being headed ‘Sips of Punch.’ Differing with O'Connell on the question of a complete repeal of the act of union, he urged the establishment of a federal parliament for Ireland, and the question was orally debated by both in public disputation; and in the end many former disciples of the Liberator flocked to O'Malley's standard. The priest followed up his advantage by starting a newspaper called ‘The Federalist,’ in which his opinions obtained eloquent advocacy. Soon after he engaged in an effort to unite Old and Young Ireland. The former, headed by O'Connell, advocated moral force; while Young Ireland favoured an appeal to arms, and seceded from O'Connell. For the next twenty years O'Malley remained in comparative retirement, living alone in a back lane of Dublin.

In 1870, when Isaac Butt, Q.C., inaugurated the home-rule movement, he found in O'Malley a zealous and energetic ally. The priest supported the new movement by voice and pen, and rejoiced to see his early opinions becoming more widely popular. It was at this time that O'Malley issued anonymously ‘Harmony in Religion,’ in which some alleged divergence of opinion between Cardinals Manning and Cullen was pointed out, and some modifications in ecclesiastical discipline boldly urged. Cardinal Cullen now ruled the see of Dublin, and O'Malley was once more visited with archiepiscopal displeasure. His last publication, ‘Home Rule on the Basis of Federalism’ (London, 1873, 16mo), went to a second edition, and, in a prefatory letter of fourteen pages, is inscribed ‘To the Irish Conservative Party.’ Though bold in urging changes of ecclesiastical discipline, O'Malley was unswerving on articles of faith. He died at his lodgings in Henrietta Street, Dublin, at the age of eighty-one, on 2 Jan. 1877, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery.

[Personal knowledge; Life of Bishop England; Life, Times, and Contemporaries of Lord Cloncurry, Dublin, 1855; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography.]

W. J. F.