North Cathedral Bicentenary Exhibition

Daniel Cohalan (b.1858 - d.1952) Auxiliary Bishop of Cork 1914-1916 Bishop of Cork 1916- 1952

2. & 3. Cork Free Press newspaper 20 May 1916 containing Bishop Cohalan’s Letter about the 1916 truce in Cork

z Daniel Cohalan was born in Kilmichael Co. Cork in July 1858. Having studied at Maynooth he was ordained a priest for the dioceses of Cork in 1883.He served a number of parishes and taught in St Finbarr’s Farranferris. He was also chaplain to the Crown forces from 1884-1885. From 1886 to 1914 Cohalan was on the staff of Maynooth College as professor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology. z In 1914 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cork and by 1916 he was installed as Bishop of Cork serving the city until his death in 1952. For quite a few of those years Cohalan found himself drawn into the nationalist independence struggles of the day. His role here cast a long shadow over his episcopate as he tried to take the middle ground in a struggle that was rapidly deteriorating into chaos and turmoil. It was a role that demanded of him strength of character and ruthless imposition of church teaching on his flock in Cork. His anti-violence attitude was the guiding principle in his episcopacy. z He had a crucial role in the 1916 rising in Cork. It was he along with the Lord Mayor who arranged for the Volunteers including Tomas MacCurtain and Terence McSwiney to stand down in the face of superior Crown forces. Cohalan was eager to avoid bloodshed and having the city plunged into chaos. However it left a bad taste with the Volunteers that the British did not honour the terms of the agreement brokered by Cohalan and the Lord Mayor. z Cohalan’s determination to avoid disintegration of law and order in Cork spurred him to challenge the political manifesto of the emerging nationalist party Sinn Fein. Even as they established themselves a s a strong nationalist voice by 1917, Cohalan challenged their opposition stance to everything and instead put them under pressure to accept their role in responsible politics. z In 1918 Bishop Cohalan threw his weight behind the anti-conscription lobby. Conscription was a hugely emotive subject in Ireland and Cohalan was having none of it. He attended a public meeting in Cork making it clear that conscripting Irishmen to fight Britain’s wars was unacceptable. He also signed the Irish Bishops statement on conscription issued in Maynooth in 1918. z Political turmoil gripped the country by 1919. Cork was no different with the office of Lord Mayor going to a Sinn Fein man, a Volunteer and a rebel. The once unionist and loyal city was turning to Sinn Fein for its political leadership. z As the War of Independence developed, Cohalan found himself in the thick of things. In 1920 he presided over the funeral of Tomas MacCurtain leader of the Volunteers in Cork. The funeral was held in the Cathedral of St Mary and St Ann. MacCurtain’s replacement was Terence McSwiney. z Terence MacSwiney was arrested by Crown forces and following a courtmartial was sent to Brixton Prison. Once there McSwiney engaged in hunger strike to bring notice to the world of Ireland’s difficulties. The severity and length of his hunger strike had a fatal effect on McSwiney and horrified Cohalan. He visited McSwiney in Brixton Jail to try to get him to come off the strike. McSwiney’s death soon after was the signal for law and order to disappear on the streets of Cork. Shootings, Lootings, Stop and Search programmes, allincreased with the arrival in Ireland of the Black and Tans. z Cohalan presided over McSwiney’s funeral again in the Cathedral and began to make clear in no uncertain terms that violence begot violence. He went so far as to have words with his young curate Fr O’Flynn over the latter’s involvement with Sinn Fein and the nationalist cause. Cohalan was firmly of the belief that a priest had to follow the gospel and avoid any violence.He was determined that his clergy would give that message to their flock. z The 1920 burning of Cork City by the Black and Tans following the Dillon’s Cross and Kilmichael Ambushes saw the city spin out of control and into the hands of gunmen on both sides. It prompted Cohalan to issue a decree of excommunication against those who perpetrated violence in any form. It was issued in the Cathedral on December 12 1920. Cohalan in his eagerness to calm the city only inflamed heated debate among republicans about the best course of action. It drove a wedge between the IRA and the Catholic Church in Cork and between clergy and Bishop as a number of clergy were active in the IRA. z Most saw his policy as ineffective in quelling the violence that raged in Cork. Nevertheless he remained steadfast on this point isolating himself from republican parishioners and clergy. Even to the point after 1922 of refusing a Catholic burial to any hunger striker. z To underline his support for law and order, Cohalan welcomed the 1922 Treaty that established the Free State agreeing that it was not “perfection” but was a great “measure of freedom”. This support was preached publicly in the North Cathedral on December 10 1922. z With the coming of the new state Cohalan concerned himself with the role of the Catholic church in it. He was keen to see it use its pressure to avoid issues being discussed in the Senate that were not acceptable parts of Catholic teaching. He exhorted Catholics not to vote for any election candidates who were supporting un catholic measures being introduced. z In 1937 he turned his attention to the role of the Protestant churches in Ireland. He encouraged the protestant community of Cork to unite with its Catholic brethren to achieve Christian unity. He even went so far as to suggest to the Protestant Bishop of Cork that they merge the dioceses between them with St Finbarr’s Cathedral presiding over Southside and The North Cathedral presiding over Northside. All the Bishop had to do was to convert to Catholicism!! The death of Bishop Cohalan at he age of 96 in 1952 brought to an end a long reign as Bishop of Cork. His requiem mass was celebrated in the North Cathedral and he was buried in the grounds of Farranferris. Yet an interesting side note was that his earlier controversial role in Cork’s turbulent history cast a shadow over his funeral. Neither the President, Sean T. O’Kelly nor the Taoiseach, De Valera were at the funeral, citing ill health and other duties as reasons for this. However both had been anti-treaty men in their day and had not forgotten the emotive issues of those times and Cohalan’s role in them. Even at 96 Bishop Cohalan’s strong moral stance was still proving divisive and uncomfortable for many.

1. Bishop Daniel Cohalan

5. Memorial Card of Terence MacSwiney (1920) (Cork City Archives)

6. Mission Souveneir, March 1926

4. Text of 1st Page of Cohalan’s public letter of May 1916 (Cork City Archives)

8. to 12. Scenes from Bishop Coholan’s Funeral in 1952




14. Sermon by Cohalan on Centenary of Presentation Convent, Bandon (1929)


7. Address by Cohalan to AGM of Sick Poor Society (c. 1950’s) (Cork City Archives)

13. Letter from Cohalan to Liam De Roiste TD (16 Sept 1915) He remarks on his great sympathy with the Irish Language movement and his appreciation of the good work the Cork Branch of the Gaelic League is doing in the City and at Ballingeary.

15. Bishop Cohalan at The Lough Church, c.1930’s

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