Irish History


Although Tomás Ó Fiaich’s major historical interest lay in Irish church history he was also deeply aware of the general progress of history and how this affected religion and society both in Ulster and across the island of Ireland. He recognised the central importance of the Gaelic tradition and the old Gaelic order in allowing that history to evolve and saw in its destruction the reasons for the decline of much of what was central to Irish culture and tradition. In particular he took a keen interest in the O’Neill dynasty and its role in governing Gaelic society across the north of Ireland during the early modern era. He researched and wrote of the circumstances which had brought about the degradation of that Gaelic order and the consequences of its undoing.


Hugh O'Neill - Armagh c.1601 That sea change in Irish history can be traced through many of the items held within this library and archive. The epic battle of the Yellow Ford which took place within a few miles of this site in 1598 is preserved in both documentary and pictorial forms within the collections. The subsequent Flight of the Earls, which witnessed the death in exile of the great Hugh O’Neill, forms a major part of the cardinal’s own collection of academic papers, and the consequent plantation in Ulster is recorded in a rare series of maps that were originally drafted as part of the confiscation and redistribution scheme that followed in 1609.

The cardinal’s papers are complimented by those of his predecessors and these shed light on a variety of historical events from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Items of interest on the campaign for Catholic emancipation, the Great Famine and the Land War are all to found within the archives of the archdiocese while other material contributes to our understanding of the events and personalities of the Home Rule era and the period covering the partition of Ireland. Many of the major personalities of that time are represented in the correspondence of the various cardinals and archbishops of Armagh including Michael Davitt, Charles Stewart Parnell, John Redmond and Eamon de Valera.

For the twentieth century the response of the church during two world wars, the Spanish Civil War as well as the cold war can be discerned from the public and private pronouncements displayed within the thousands of documents that make up just a small part of this huge archive. There is also a unique collection of audio interviews by the late Fr. Louis O’Kane recording the memories and first hand accounts of dozens of veterans of the Irish war of independence.

The troubles of the second half of the twentieth century in the north of Ireland are further chronicled within a number of major archival collections which will form a hugely important resource for future generations. These include the papers of Sister Sarah Clarke and Monsignors Denis Faul and Raymond Murray.

Cardinal Toms Fiaich Library
15 Moy Road
BT61 7LY
Northern Ireland

Tel: +44 28 3752 2981

For directions, opening hours, etc,