Spiritual tyranny? : an examination of Post-Famine clerical influence in the Lough Mask region.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


Local parish priests played a critical role in manipulating violence and agitation in the area surrounding Lough Mask (Counties Galway and Mayo) during the immediate Post-Famine era. Irish Catholic Church history and the evolution of the role of Irish clergy are presented as they are critical to recognizing the political and spiritual leadership of parish priests. Similarly, significant historical background is provided to highlight the political complexities and the tradition of rebellion in Pre- and Post-Famine Ireland. The contextual backdrop for the examination of such clerical manipulation is focused upon the Mayo Elections of 1852 and 1857, the Galway Election of 1872, and the Irish Land War. The aforementioned elections highlight mob behaviors and the behavioral actions of two local priests, Fr. Peter Conway and Fr. Patrick Lavelle. These behaviors are analyzed using sociological and psychological lenses. The Irish Land War provides a rich milieu for the study of the relationship between spiritual and secular leadership. As such, clerical leaders will be juxtaposed with the secular leadership of the Land League as the two groups, in some ways, became enmeshed during the Land War. Arguably, as the Land League's influence waned in the Lough Mask region, clerical influence waxed. This negative correlation is illustrated by the Land League Branch President, Fr. John O'Malley's management of the Boycott affair, actions of warring parish priests (Fr. Patrick Lavelle and Fr. Walter Conway), and clerical connections to Lough Mask agrarian murders.