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O'Daly, Daniel Dominic (1595–1662), Dominican friar and diplomat, was born at Kilsarkan, near Castleisland, co. Kerry, into the Kerry branch of the bardic family of Ó Dálaigh. He entered the Dominican order at Lugo in Galicia, Spain, and studied at Bordeaux, Burgos, and Salamanca during 1622–3. As early as 1625 the nobility of co. Kerry wanted him as bishop of Ardfert. After a stay in Ireland he went to the Low Countries where the Irish Dominicans had been present since about 1613. By the early 1620s a Dominican house had been established in Louvain of which O'Daly was the superior in 1626. Worsening relations between Spain and England interrupted the flow of funds from Ireland, endangering the college's financial security, and in 1627 O'Daly was given permission to travel to Madrid to organize support for the college and to transact business for the province. By 1628 he had left Louvain to take up residence in Madrid.

Once in Spain O'Daly became involved in efforts to found an Irish Dominican convent in Lisbon in Spanish-ruled Portugal. The aim was to provide priests for the Irish church, which, in the relative peace of the 1610s, was undergoing significant administrative and organizational reform. These reforms were inspired by the Council of Trent but, given the impoverished, war-weary condition of the Irish Catholic population, outside assistance was necessary to kick-start and sustain the reform process. Given the Spanish commitment to Catholicism and Habsburg domination, it is understandable why Spain and Spanish-ruled Portugal acted like magnets for Irish Catholic exiles in the early seventeenth century and from as early as 1615 a Dominican college in Lisbon had been mooted. Hugh O'Neill, the former earl of Tyrone, had supported the venture and a Portuguese nobleman, Garcias de Norohna, had actually donated a site. Pius V's 1615 brief, In apostolicae dignitatis culmine, addressed to the papal collector of Portugal, approved the foundation. However, the proposal lacked the approval of both the Spanish crown and the local Portuguese authorities. By 1623 Philip IV's support had been enlisted but the Portuguese proved more difficult to convince. They had prohibited new religious foundations and questing on the grounds that Lisbon could ill afford to support another religious establishment. Further, they resented the Spanish-backed Irish and feared that they might prevail on Madrid to use the navy against the Dutch.

It was into this difficult situation that O'Daly stepped on arrival in Lisbon in 1629. Armed with letters of commendation from Philip IV he mounted a successful charm campaign and won the support of a number of Portuguese high-ranking families and religious figures. Realizing that the question of an Irish Dominican college in Lisbon had become a test case for diplomatic relations between Lisbon, Madrid, and Rome, O'Daly cleverly manoeuvred initially for a mere hospice to house Dominican students prior to their embarking for Ireland. Permission for this was eventually granted late in 1629, and gave O'Daly the toehold he desired. He secured the patronage of Luis de Castro do Rio, lord of Barbacena, grand alcayde of Covilhã, and his wife, Catarina Telles de Meneses, who granted the Dominican community more commodious accommodation. This gradually metamorphosed into a convent of which O'Daly was appointed first rector by the Dominican master general Nicholas Ridolfi in 1634. In its early years the college was involved in serious legal wrangles with the heirs of Andreza de Vargas de Saraina, a benefactor.

O'Daly next applied his diplomatic talents to the establishment of a convent of Irish Dominican nuns in Lisbon, partly to provide for exiled Irish noblewomen. In March 1639 Philip IV assented to a foundation and in November a community took possession of its cloister in the suburbs of Lisbon, under the title Bom Sucesso. In order to secure the king's support O'Daly had undertaken to recruit soldiers for the Spanish army, a venture that had already taken him to Ireland on at least two visits in 1636–7. In pursuit of the same end he travelled to England, where he briefly lodged in prison, an exploit which greatly enhanced his reputation in Lisbon. He appears to have been in contact with Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, at this time, probably on papal business.

O'Daly kept a close eye on the rapidly evolving political situation in Portugal. When a coup d'état occurred in 1640 and the house of Braganza, in the person of João IV, was restored, O'Daly calmly switched allegiance from Madrid to the Portuguese throne and transfiliated his college to the Portuguese province of the Dominicans. He became an adviser to the new queen regent, Luisa de Gusmão, who generously endowed the Dominican foundations. In 1644 the Dominican general chapter in Rome recognized O'Daly's achievement by bestowing on him the title magister sacrae theologiae (doctor of theology) and shortly afterwards he was nominated confessor to Queen Luisa. The combination of her patronage and his own natural flair propelled O'Daly into an important diplomatic career in the service of Braganza at the Stuart, Bourbon, and papal courts. He already had considerable foreign experience. Thanks to his sojourn in the Low Countries in the 1620s he had valuable contacts there. Negotiations at the Madrid court in 1633 to secure the royal viaticum for Irish Dominicans returning home had further raised his profile. So too had his successful efforts to found the two Dominican convents in Lisbon. Indeed, through all these activities O'Daly posed not only as the representative of Irish Dominican interests but also as a spokesman for Irish interests generally. Given these qualifications and the Portuguese monarchy's need of experienced envoys to help it gain diplomatic recognition abroad, O'Daly was nominated envoy to Charles I about 1642. The beleaguered Stuart requested that O'Daly go to Ireland with a view to uniting the various royalist factions into an effective opposition to the parliamentarians. O'Daly made this proposed Irish mission conditional on royal concessions regarding civil and religious liberties for Irish Catholics. As these were not forthcoming O'Daly withdrew from the negotiations, thereby missing the opportunity to become involved in the constitutional experiment of the confederation of Kilkenny in the 1640s. An indication of what his line on Irish affairs might have been may be gleaned from a letter he wrote in 1650 to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, the earl of Ormond, in which he declared himself for an independent kingdom of Ireland. In 1655 O'Daly published at Lisbon his Initium, incrementum et exitus familiae Geraldinorum Desmoniae, an account of the earls of Desmond and the religious persecutions following their demise, which contains significant hagiographical material.

O'Daly's activities sought to draw Irish political and religious life into the mainstream of European Catholic concerns. He envisaged a Catholic restoration for Ireland and its integration into the European family of Catholic nations. Habsburg enmity with England, and Spain's commitment to the Catholic reform made it easier for him to pursue his mission. His negotiations with the Spanish crown to secure the viaticum for returning Irish priests was part of this overall scheme and ensured a sympathy among Spanish-educated Irish priests for Spanish diplomatic aims. This goes some way to explain the Dublin government's nervousness concerning Irish connections with Spain. Once he had transferred his allegiance to the house of Braganza, however, O'Daly's room for manoeuvre on behalf of his native country was more limited but he compensated by rendering admirable service to his new patrons.

Throughout the 1640s and 1650s O'Daly's view of Irish politics was informed by his diplomatic activity on behalf of Portugal, a small country struggling to find a sustainable place on the European political stage. In 1649 he travelled to Ireland to raise troops for the Portuguese crown. Portuguese diplomats like O'Daly recognized that freedom from Spanish domination depended on the French and the English; however, Portuguese negotiations with these powers troubled the papal court, then under Spanish influence. Indeed, at this time João IV had difficulty in obtaining papal confirmation of episcopal nominations in Portuguese territories. In 1650 O'Daly was in Rome to attend the general chapter of the Dominican order and to act as agent for Charles II. He took the opportunity to represent João IV's position to the pope; however, the problem of episcopal nomination was settled only in 1656, by which time O'Daly was Portuguese ambassador to France. Rumours that Portugal was contemplating an alliance with France, Sweden, and England concerned the pope. The French, for their part, mistrusted O'Daly as they suspected that João IV was actually in league with Spain and they refused to negotiate a new treaty with Lisbon. Meanwhile the 1654 treaty with Oliver Cromwell poisoned relations with Madrid and the situation was defused only by the death of the Portuguese king in late 1656.

As councillor of the regent, Queen Luisa, O'Daly maintained the traditional Portuguese diplomatic policy of courting England and France in order to thwart Madrid even at the risk of alienating Rome. He continued to promote the Quadruple Alliance with France, Sweden, and England, on behalf of the new king, Alfonso VI. Negotiations with the Commonwealth were successfully pursued and O'Daly was clear-sighted enough to realize that England's continued support was necessary if Portugal was to avoid Spanish and French domination. Portuguese diplomats managed to keep this scheme afloat without alienating Charles II, and following Charles's Restoration in 1660 an Anglo-Portuguese treaty was signed. It included a royal marriage between Charles II and Catherine, second daughter of João IV. Thus Portugal edged its way back onto the European political stage without alienating France, falling under Spanish influence, or completely disaffecting Rome—an achievement due in no small part to O'Daly's diplomatic talents.

O'Daly refused nominations to the sees of Goa and Braga. However, in 1662 he accepted nomination as bishop of Coimbra, but died in Lisbon on 30 June as bishop-elect and president of the state council of Portugal. He was buried in the Dominican college where his monument is preserved.

Thomas O'Connor


T. S. Flynn, The Irish Dominicans, 1536–1641 (1993) · B. Curtin, ‘Dominic O'Daly: an Irish diplomat’, Studia Hibernica, 5 (1965), 98–112 · B. MacCurtain, ‘An Irish agent of the Counter-Reformation’, Irish Historical Studies, 15 (1966–7), 391–406 · M. B. Curtin, ‘Daniel O'Daly, 1595–1662’, MA diss., University College Dublin, 1958 · B. Jennings, ed., Wadding papers, 1614–38, IMC (1953) · H. V. Livermore, A history of Portugal (1947), 299–303