Kilconnel - The Popery Acts

Extract from Grand Jury Presentments

At the Galway Summer Assizes of 1822 the last known case of the prosecution of a priest under the Popery Acts was that of Father John O' Connor, Parish Priest of Kilconnel and Aughrim. He was indicted:

"he, on the 17th of February last, did in Kilconnel celebrate marriage between Thomas Curley, a reputed Papist, and Mary Parry, who had professed herself to be a Protestant, within the space of twelve months previous to the date of her marriage, contrary to the peace of our Lord the King, his Crown and dignity."

The Crown Prosecutor stated that the accused was a clergyman of position in the Roman Church, respected by all who knew him; and the crime he stood indicated for was a violation of that law which makes it criminal for a Roman Catholic priest to perform the ceremony of marriage between a couple, either of whom had within twelve months been a professed Protestant. The defendant, counsel said, might have not intentionally violated the law, but the Hon. and Most Reverend Doctor Trench, and the Rev. Mr. Martin, Rector of the Parish, who had originated this prosecution thought otherwise. The Jury must be aware that the 32 and 33 George III, chapter 21, subsection 12 and 13 restricts

"Romish priests from performing the service of marriage between Protestants or between those who had been Protestants within twelve months previously, and Papists unless first performed by the Protestant clergymen."

The young lady admittedly had been a Protestant in this case, in which she was an unwilling witness. She had become a Catholic and married, and she will now be examined as to the state of the facts, as also will be the Rev. Mr. Martin, whose church she was wont to attend. He (counsel)would put his witnesses on the table, and he ventured to hope that it would be the last time in his life that he would be employed in such a prosecution.

The facts having been proved, the knowledge of the priest as to whether he knew the lady had been a Protestant within the twelve months became the object of serious inquiry.

Counsel for Father O' Connor were Messrs. North, K.C., Blakeney, Fallon, Donelan and Everard.

The Judge, Mr. Justice Burton, charged for an acquittal, and the Jury accordingly acquitted Father O' Connor.