- The Belligerent Prelate: An Alliance between Archbishop Daniel Mannix and Eamon de Valera by Patrick Mannix
There have been at least five biographies and several published articles on the life and legacy of Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne. None of the biographies, other than Colm Kiernan’s 1984 book, contains any detailed consideration of the decades-long relationship between Mannix and Irish politician Eamon de Valera. Nor is it the focus of any of the journal articles, with the exception of Joe Broderick’s short but informative essay in a 1994 issue of History Ireland. That article is widely cited in this book, and it may also have been the inspiration for Patrick Mannix’s more ample account of his namesake’s interaction with de Valera.
The author does concede from the outset that if de Valera has been better served by history than Mannix, the archbishop has no one to blame but himself. De Valera took pains to ensure that records of his own life and political activities were preserved for posterity. Mannix, in contrast, deliberately destroyed virtually all of his personal papers shortly before his death. Patrick Mannix explains how the archbishop’s long and active work on behalf of Irish nationalism was encumbered by a temperament that often made him either obtuse about Irish political realities or averse to them in a way that came with a personal cost.
Relations between Mannix and de Valera began as early as 1912 when Mannix, as president of Maynooth College, invited de Valera to apply for a part-time lectureship in mathematics. That option closed when Mannix was suddenly dispatched to become coadjutor to the then unwell and aging Thomas Carr, archbishop of Melbourne. Approximately fifty years later, de Valera, now president of the Republic of Ireland, sought to have Mannix admitted to the College of Cardinals in 1961. That, too, was not to be, and Mannix died two years later at the age of ninety-nine. Their remarkable association was perhaps strongest between the years 1920 and 1925, whereupon it lapsed into only occasional contact as both distance and differing priorities took their toll.
Patrick Mannix retells the familiar story of the archbishop’s controversial 1920 visit to the United States—a stop before his visit to Pope Benedict XV in Rome. But the book’s special value lies in its portrayal of how de Valera took advice from Mannix on such questions as the oath on entering the Dail, the new Irish Constitution, and numerous other issues. Especially instructive is the author’s portrayal of how Mannix ignored de Valera’s pleas to be less aggressive toward the Irish hierarchy in 1925 and again in the 1930s, when de Valera needed the support of the bishops, and Mannix carried an unforgiving remembrance of their part in his exile to Australia. [End Page 799]
Daniel Mannix was born in Charleville, County Cork, in 1864, and Eamon de Valera in New York City in 1882. But the latter was sent to Ireland at the age of three to be raised by a grandmother, aunt, and uncle in Bruree, County Limerick. Although they were eighteen years apart, both shared the same rural country life in homes that were less than a half dozen miles from one another and later studied under the Christian Brothers at Fermoy. There, the ethos of that educational training during formative years nurtured the steadfast discipline and principled beliefs that became hallmarks of their respective public lives.
Although this attractively produced book would have profited from a publisher’s copyeditor to catch a few spelling errors, as well as footnote titles that do not appear in the bibliography, it is all the same a welcome contribution to the ever-expanding published scholarship on selected features of Irish nationalism.