Walsh, William Joseph
WALSH, WILLIAM JOSEPH
Archbishop of Dublin, theologian, and Irish patriot;b. Dublin, Jan. 30, 1841; d. Dublin, April 9, 1921. William, son of Ralph and Mary Walsh, shared his father's enthusiasm for Irish national and political independence. He attended the Catholic University of Dublin during newman's rectorship, and entered St. Patrick's College, maynooth (1858). After ordination (1867) he continued at Maynooth as professor of theology, becoming vice president (1878) and president (1880). Walsh was drawn into the agitation for land tenure reform. His testimony before the Bessborough commission of 1880, which had been appointed by Gladstone to inquire into the Irish land system, was decisive in exposing the most flagrant abuses of the landlords, and influenced the drafting of the Land Act of 1881. Despite the British government's strong objection, Walsh was archbishop of Dublin (1885). Quickly he became the most influential Irish bishop and usually served as spokesman for the hierarchy. His nationalism was more temperate than that of Thomas croke, Archbishop of Armagh. He never attempted to defy governmental authority but firmly supported the Home Rule movement. During the Parnell scandal (1890) he preserved silence publicly until his private urging that Parnell retire as leader of the Irish parliamentary party was ignored. Then he publicly warned that the Irish bishops could no longer support such discredited leadership. Many blamed Walsh for the ensuing party split.
Walsh's most lasting achievement was in national education. As a member of the Catholic Headmasters' Committee he promoted reform of secondary education. As archbishop he served as a commissioner of primary (1895–1901) and intermediate (1892–1909) education. As early as 1883 his book The Queen's Colleges and the Royal University of Ireland challenged the Irish system of higher education. In his later works, Statement of the Chief Grievances of Irish Catholics in the Matter of Education (1890) and The Irish University Question (1897), he demanded that Catholic training colleges be supported by public funds and that a Catholic college on an equal footing with the Protestant Trinity College be substituted for the Queen's Colleges. But Walsh welcomed the establishment of the National University of Ireland and was elected its first chancellor (1908).
Walsh was temperamentally aloof, but deeply sympathetic toward the Irish peasants. He was thoroughly democratic and believed firmly in representative government. He was never close to the lord lieutenant of Ireland or to Castle society. He advocated bimetallism, trade unions, woman suffrage, and the admission of women to the university and to the professions. As a scholar Walsh was primarily a theologian, but he exerted his greatest influence in interpreting to Roman officials complicated economic questions, such as land tenure in Ireland or Henry George's single-tax. In his declining years he withdrew from public questions until the rise of the Sinn Fein. He objected to the Irish Government Bill of 1912
and opposed the leadership of John Redmond and John Dillon of the Irish parliamentary party. He publically denounced the partition of Ireland, and during the 1919 elections, supported the Sinn Fein. Although he supported the establishment of the illegal Irish Parliament, he participated in efforts to bring the Sinn Fein and Lloyd George's government together for negotiations. He vigorously condemned violence.
Bibliography: p. j. walsh, Life of William J. Walsh: Archbishop of Dublin (Dublin 1928). m. curran. "The Late Archbishop of Dublin, 1841–1921," Dublin Review 169 (1921) 93–107.