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Irish Catholic Martyrs refers to the dozens of people who have been sanctified in varying degrees for dying for their Roman Catholic faith between 1537 and 1714 in Ireland.


Religious persecution of Catholics in Ireland began under King Henry VIII (then Lord of Ireland) after his excommunication in 1533. The Irish Parliament adopted the Acts of Supremacy, establishing the king's supremacy over the Church. Some priests, bishops, and those who continued to pray for the pope were tortured and killed. Other acts caused any act of allegiance to the pope to be considered treason. Many were imprisoned on this basis.

Relations improved after the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary in 1553-58, and in the early years of the reign of her sister Queen Elizabeth I. However, Elizabeth did not submit herself to the church as desired, and was then excommunicated by the papal bull "Regnans in Excelsis" in 1570. This was a part of a new round of conflicts, in which Roman Catholics were obliged to repudiate Elizabeth's laws and the status of her officials, or to overthrow them if possible. In Ireland the First Desmond Rebellion was launched in 1569, at almost the same time as the Northern Rebellion in England.

From the Peace of Augsburg (1555) the doctrine Cuius regio, eius religio was adopted, whereby people had to take their ruler's religion. This was acceptable to Queen Mary and the Papacy, at the time, but not following Elizabeth's enactments.

The trial of the Wexford Martyrs at the time of the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-83) was held as much for political as religious reasons, given the part played by Viscount Baltinglass in the English defeat at the Battle of Glenmalure.

Mayoress Margaret Ball and Mayor Francis Taylor


There was a long delay in starting the investigation into their causes.[clarification needed] Further complicating the investigation is that the records of these martyrs were destroyed, or not compiled, due to the danger of keeping such evidence. After Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the cause for Oliver Plunkett was re-visited. As a result, a series of publications on the whole period of persecutions was made.

The first to complete the process was Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, canonized in 1975 by Pope Paul VI. Plunkett was certainly targeted by the administration and unfairly tried.

Irish Martyrs
Died1537–1714, Ireland
Martyred by English monarchy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified September 27, 1992 by Pope John Paul II
Feast June 20

Seventeen martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 27, 1992. They are known as Dermot O'Hurley, Margaret Bermingham Ball, Francis Taylor and their fourteen companions.[1] Among them are:

None were included subsequently on the List of saints canonised by Pope John Paul II.

Various churches have been dedicated to the martyrs, including:

  • Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ballyraine, Letterkenny [2]
  • Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ballycane, Naas[3]
  • Church of the Irish Martyrs, Cromwell, Otago, New Zealand.

See also

  • English Reformation
  • List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation


External links