‘Lost’ Irish martyrs on the road to Rome for sainthood

‘Lost’ Irish martyrs on the road to Rome for sainthood Photo: CNS


Ireland could be set to have 42 more martyrs recognised by the Church in the near future, with Archbishop Eamon Martin revealing that the process of readying their causes for submission to Rome is at “an advanced stage”.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic at Drogheda’s annual celebration of St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop Martin said that while his 17th-Century predecessor is Ireland’s most famous martyr, Irish Catholics can look to the examples of many others who heroically gave their lives for the Faith.

“So far we’ve only had the first tranche of the Irish martyrs, and thank God we’re now in an advanced stage in the preparation of the causes for the next tranche of Irish martyrs,” he said.

“I do think it’s important that at a time when people’s faith is being tested, to look to others who have been strong in their Faith actually gives you hope and gives you courage, like St Oliver Plunkett the famous one of course, but many others throughout Ireland – and throughout England – who died during those awful times.”

According to the Archdiocese of Dublin, which administers the Irish Martyrs Fund, after the beatification of 17 Irish martyrs in 1992 work continued on a second group of 42 martyrs and a positio – a dossier of documentation pertaining to them – was prepared in 1998.


It appears, however, that the positio was never forwarded to the Vatican. Following the 2016 death of Msgr John Hanley, postulator of the martyrs’ causes, the positio was discovered in an examination of his papers.

“Just over two years ago, the papers were consigned to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and they must be verified regarding their completeness by the relevant office of the Holy See,” a diocesan spokesperson said. “On completion of the examination the second phase of the process can be opened.”

The position contains 18 dossiers, covering 41 Irish people and one English Carmelite priest all killed between 1572 and 1655. The martyrs include 10 lay men and two lay women, with such individuals, Dr Martin said in Drogheda, being especially important examples for today’s Catholics.

“I think it is very important that the call to holiness is for everyone,” he said. “It’s not just for bishops and priests and nuns: the call for holiness is for every Christian to live out their own daily lives in witness, and therefore they need examples. They need examples of ordinary people, not just bishops and priests and nuns, but examples of ordinary young people and old people who gave their lives for the Faith, and they are found around the world today.”