Oliver Plunkett was born in Loughcrew, Co. Meath on the 1st of November, 1625. Born into a wealthy family with powerful connections, Plunkett was able to follow his dream of becoming a priest by travelling to Rome in 1647. After receiving an eduaction at the Irish College in Rome, Plunkett was ordained as a priest in 1654. Whilst in Rome he acted as a representative for the Irish Catholic bishops.
Meanwhile, back home in Ireland, tensions were rising between Catholics and Protestants as Cromwell's conquest of 1649-1653 made it illegal to publicly practise Catholicism. Many members of the Catholic clergy were executed as a result of this ruling. This made it impossible for Plunkett to return home without risking his life. As a result he stayed in Rome where he studied to become a profesor of theology. Whilst in Rome, Plunkett campaigned for the relief of the Irish Catholics. In recognition of his efforts, he was appoint Archbishop of Armagh in 1669. This position meant that he was now the Primate of all Ireland, the Pope's representative in Ireland.
Plunkett returned to Ireland not long after the Penal laws were relaxed in 1660. He set up a Jesuit College in Drogheda, Co. Louth. This school saw an integration of both Catholic and Protestant students, the first of its kind in Ireland.
In 1678, Plunkett became entangled in The Popish Plot, an anti-Catholic conspiracy in which a number of men were falsely accused of plotting to have King Charles II assassinated. Though Plunkett was inhiding, he was captured in Dublin and brought to England for a trial. The legal proceedings were a mockery and Plunkett was sentenced to death for treason and 'promoting the Roman faith'. This ruling was denounced far and wide, and even Titus Oates, the man who created the fictitious plot, begged the King to save Plunkett's life. However it had already gone too far and the King said that he could not now renege on the decision of the jury.
Oliver Plunkett was executed on July 1st 1681. Almost 300 years later he was beatified and canonized, becoming the first new Irish saint in about 700 years. He is remembered today in Ireland as a martyr to the cause of Irish Catholics and is commemorated by several streets, churches, and schools throughout the country which bear his name. He is the Irish patron saint of peace and reconiciliation.
|Date of Birth||1st Nov 1625|
|Date of Death||1st Jul 1681|