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O'Hagan
O'Hagan
54

him to a scholarship which he had won in the examination on the ground that the scholarships were by law not tenable by catholics. The visitors came to the same conclusion.

In politics O'Hagan was opposed to the repeal of the union, advocating instead the establishment of a local legislature for local purposes, with the representation of Ireland continued in the imperial parliament (Speech at meeting of Repeal Association, 29 May 1843). His views not finding favour with O'Connell and the leading repealers, he ceased to attend the meetings of the repeal association. His first professional promotion was in 1847, when he was appointed assistant barrister of co. Longford. In the state trials of 1848 he was retained by the crown, but desired to be excused on the ground of his personal friendship with Gavan Duffy, one of the accused; the attorney-general (Monahan) at once acceded to his request, and withdrew the crown retainer; and O'Hagan felt constrained to refuse the retainer for the defence, which was subsequently offered to him. In the following year he was appointed a queen's counsel, and rapidly acquired considerable practice as a leader both on circuit and in Dunlin. Owing to his powers as a speaker and his popular sympathies, he was frequently retained in cases of a political or sensational character. The most remarkable was the trial at Dublin (7 Dec. 1855) of Father Petcherine, a redemptorist monk of Russian birth, on a charge of contemptuously and profanely burning a copy of the authorised version of the scriptures. O'Hagan addressed the jury for the defence in a speech of great force and eloquence, and a verdict of 'not guilty' was returned. In 1857 he was transferred as assistant-barrister from Longford to co. Dublin. In 1859 he was appointed third Serjeant, and elected a bencher of the King's Inns. He became solicitor-general for Ireland in 1861 in Lord Palmerston's government, and in the following year attorney-general, and was sworn of the Irish privy council. At a by-election in 1863 he was returned for Tralee, notwithstanding the combined opposition of the conservatives and nationalists. By the latter he was bitterly assailed, both as attorney-general and as a member of the board of national education, to which he had been appointed in 1858. In a manly and vigorous speech at the hustings he justified his career, defended himself from the 'virulent acerbity' with which he had been attacked, and upheld the national system of education as 'the greatest boon and blessing which since emancipation was ever conferred on Ireland by the imperial government.' In the same year in the House of Commons he again spoke energetically in defence of the national system on a motion by Major O'Reilly to reduce the vote for its expenses (18 July 1863). In January 1865 he was appointed a judge of the court of common pleas in Ireland in succession to Mr. Justice Ball. By an act passed in 1867 (30 and 31 Vict. c. 75) the lord-chancellorship of Ireland was opened to all persons without reference to their religious belief, and, on the formation of the first Gladstone ministry in December 1868, O'Hagan was appointed to the office. He was the first catholic who had held it since the reign of James II, and his appointment was received with much popular approval in Ireland. In 1870, while the Irish Land Bill was passing through parliament, he was raised to the peerage (14 June) as Baron O'Hagan of Tullahogue in co. Tyrone, and took his seat in the lords on 21 June. Tullahogue was in early times a possession of the O'Hagans, and was the place where the O'Neill was inaugurated, the O'Hagan and O'Cahan having the hereditary right to perform the ceremony (Joyce, Short Hist. of Ireland, p. 63). In the following session he introduced and passed through parliament a bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to juries in Ireland (34 and 35 Vict, c. 65). Its main object was to prevent any partiality by the sheriff or his officers in the framing of the jury panel; this object it successfully effected, but it also altered the qualification of jurors, and admitted to the jury-box a class of men who were hardly fitted for the position.

In February 1874 O'Hagan resigned with the rest of the ministry. His decisions in the Irish court of chancery are reported in the 'Irish Reports' (Equity), vols. iv.–viii. A successful common-law advocate suddenly called to preside in the court of chancery can at best hope to discharge the duties of his office in a satisfactory manner. This O'Hagan did, and his courtesy and impartiality met with general acknowledgment. But with his colleague, the lord justice of appeal (Christian), an able and erudite but somewhat eccentric judge, his relations became unfortunately strained; and at times scenes took place in the court for which the chancellor was in no way responsible. During the next six years O'Hagan sat regularly in the House of Lords on the hearing of appeals. His judgments will be found in vol. vii. of 'English and Irish Appeal Cases,' and vols. i.–v. of ' Appeal Cases ' in the 'Law Reports.' In 1875 he was selected to deliver the O'Connell centenary address in Dublin; the illness