Bellew, Sir Patrick (1726?–95), 5th baronet and catholic activist, was second son among five children (four sons and a daughter) of Sir Edward Bellew (d. 1741), 3rd baronet (1734–41), of Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Co. Louth, and Eleanor Bellew (née Moore) of Drogheda. After the death of his elder brother John (2 November 1750), Patrick inherited the family estate intact, as had his forbears, giving him the landed base to maintain the family's position as leading members of the catholic gentry. He also owned considerable land in Co. Galway, which he sold in August 1786 to his Galway Bellew cousins, with whom he maintained close contacts. Masonic emblems moulded in the plasterwork of Barmeath indicate that the Bellews were Freemasons and that lodge meetings were held at the castle.
Politically assertive, Sir Patrick was active in catholic politics from the early 1760s, reassuring the government of catholic loyalty and petitioning for catholics to be allowed enter the army in 1762. As the gentry began to supplant the Dublin middle classes in the Catholic Committee in the 1770s, he increasingly became involved in its affairs and was appointed to its select committee in 1778. In 1778 he contributed and raised funds for catholic agitation and spent much of the year in England lobbying for repeal of the penal laws; his efforts were rewarded with the passing of the 1778 relief act. During the Volunteer convention in Dublin in 1783 he presided at two meetings of the Catholic Committee (11, 15 November) at which he disputed claims that catholics were opposed to parliamentary reform. In the forefront of catholic activists who sought an alliance with the Volunteers, he was a friend of Frederick Hervey (qv), the radical protestant bishop of Derry, with whom he worked closely during the agitation for reform. This caused Bellew to be viewed with some suspicion by Dublin Castle, Lord Lieutenant Rutland (qv) noting that he ‘carried his ideas of mischief as far as any in catholic Ireland’ (Harvey, 159). By November 1784 rumours circulated in the Castle that Bellew was leader of a catholic association which he was supplying with arms. Such suspicions were unfounded: Bellew was no extremist, and after the failure of the Volunteer reform congresses of 1783–4 he appears to have lost faith in the alliance with protestant reformers. In March 1784 he thought it unwise for catholics to press for the parliamentary franchise, and in March 1785 while chairing a Catholic Committee meeting he supported a motion (which was defeated) that catholics should withdraw from the Volunteers and concentrate on securing further relief solely through constitutional means. He and his sons Edward and William were appointed to a twenty-five-member subcommittee in 1788. In the 1790s he sided with conservative elements in the catholic gentry. Unhappy at the radicalism of middle-class activists, he and his sons followed Thomas Browne, 4th Viscount Kenmare (qv) in seceding from the Catholic Committee in December 1791; they did not participate in the Catholic Convention of December 1792. He died 5 March 1795 at Barmeath.
He married (18 August 1756) Mary, daughter and co-heiress of Matthew Hore of Shandon, Co. Waterford; they had nine sons and two daughters. Sir Patrick was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Edward Bellew (1758?–1827), 6th baronet. Active in the Catholic Committee from the 1780s, Sir Edward was named as a trustee of Maynooth College at its foundation in 1795. He continued to work for emancipation after the union and was one of the delegates who presented the Irish catholic petition to parliament in 1805. Representative of the aristocratic tendency on the Catholic Board, he disapproved of the populist style of agitation of Daniel O'Connell (qv), and in December 1816 he seceded from the board in protest at O'Connell's uncompromising opposition to a government veto on episcopal appointments. In 1823, because of his respectability and political moderation, he was used by catholics as a test case for admission to Drogheda corporation, but was turned down. He joined the Catholic Association in 1823, but was soon edged out by middle-class elements and ceased to attend its meetings. In the general election of 1826, he was initially reluctant to back Alexander Dawson (1771–1831), a radical pro-emancipation candidate for Co. Louth, but popular catholic feeling eventually compelled him to support him, and his efforts helped secure Dawson's election. He died 15 March 1827 at Barmeath.
Sir Edward married (13 August 1786) Mary Anne, daughter and heir of Richard Strange of Rockwell Castle, Co. Kilkenny. They had two sons – Patrick (1798–1866), 1st Baron Bellew, and Richard Montesquieu (qv) – and a daughter, Frances (d. 1860).
Sir Patrick's fourth son was William Bellew (1762?–1835), catholic activist and lawyer. Educated at the English College at Douai, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1782, and in 1792 was one of the first four catholics called to the Irish bar after the relaxation of the penal laws. Employed frequently by leading catholic families, he was an expert conveyancer, and was said to have almost monopolised catholic business, particularly in the court of chancery. An aloof and reserved man, he was known for his strict legalism and respect for constituted authority: a colleague observed that ‘if William Bellew saw a man hanging from every lamp-post down Capel Street . . . the only question he would ask would be whether they were hanged according to law’ (Savage, i, 145). He was an active member of the Catholic Committee and chaired several important meetings in 1791 before seceding from the committee in December of that year. At a meeting of catholics in December 1798 to discuss the proposed union with Great Britain, he criticised the government's failure to couple union with emancipation, and predicted that Irish catholics would have little chance of securing relief in a British parliament in which they had no influence. However, he soon moderated his opposition, and for his efforts to prevent a catholic declaration against the union he was promised a county court judgeship in Co. Louth. When this was blocked by the local protestant gentry, the government granted him a pension of £300 a year instead. He remained involved in catholic politics, although the fact that he was in receipt of a pension affected his credibility. He opposed presenting the catholic petition of 1805 to the opposition after its rejection by Pitt, on the grounds that it would make emancipation a party issue. Like his brother, he disliked O'Connell's style of agitation, and seceded from the Catholic Board in 1816. When an effort was made to reconstitute the Catholic Association after its dissolution in 1825, he published a letter to the attorney general to demonstrate the illegality of forming a new association. A furious O'Connell responded with an open letter denouncing Bellew as a Castle pensioner, after which he played little part in politics. He died in 1835.