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Hugh O'Reilly

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Archbishop of Armagh, head of the Confederates of Kilkenny, b. 1580; d. on Trinity Island in Lough Erne. He first conceived the idea of forming this national movement into a regular organization. He convened a provincial synod at Kells early in March, 1642, in which the bishops declared the war undertaken by the Irish people for their king, religion, and country to be just and lawful. The following May (1642) he convened a national synod, consisting of prelates and civil lords, at Kilkenny. After having ratified their former declaration, they framed an oath of association to be taken by all their adherents, binding them to maintain the fundamental laws of Ireland, the free exercise of religion, and true allegiance to Charles I. Orders were issued to levy men and raise money; to establish a mint and an official printing press; to take the duty off such foreign imports as wheat and corn, lead, iron, arms and ammunition; the bishops and clergy should pay a certain sum for national purposes out of the ecclesiastical revenues that had come back into their possession; and agents should be sent to Catholic courts to solicit aid. They gave letters of credit and chartered some light vessels that were to fly the Confederate colors and protect the coast, and they drafted a remonstrance to the king declaring their loyalty and protesting against the acts of tyranny, injustice, and intolerance of the Puritan lord justices and Parliament of Dublin in confiscating Catholic lands and putting a ban on Catholic school-teachers. The assembly lasted until 9 January, agreeing to meet 20 May following. The seal of the Confederation bore in its centre a large cross rising out of a flaming heart, above were the wings of a dove, on the left a harp, and on the right a crown; the legend read: Pro Deo, Rege, et Patria, Hiberni Unanimes.

Wherever the primate's partisans commanded, the Protestant bishops, ministers, and people were safe, and were even protected in the exercise of their own religious worship. Archbishop O'Reilly was, throughout the war and the terrible years that followed it, the soul and guide of the national party; he did his utmost to restrain the violence of the people, who would have wreaked vengeance on their persecutors had they been left to their own instincts at that crisis. He urged Sir Phelim O'Neile and Lord Iveagh to keep the armed multitudes in check and prevent a massacre and pillage of Protestants. Such salutary restraint produced the most happy results, for even the rudest of the northern chieftains respected him too much to violate his lessons of forbearance and charity. When the great chieftain, Owen Roe, was dying, he had himself taken to Ballinacorgy Castle, the residence of his brother-in-law Philip O'Reilly, where he was attended by Archbishop O'Reilly. Local tradition gives the ruined Abbey of the Holy Trinity, on an island a few miles from Ballinagorgy Castle, as his last resting place. In the same locality Archbishop O'Reilly was buried. The primate's signature is still to be seen in most of the manifestoes of the Confederation of Kilkenny as "Hugo Armacanus".

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