Burke, Dominic (c.1603–1649), Dominican priest and political agent, was a scion of the Burke family, earls of Clanricard and St Albans. Having entered the Dominican order, he entered its house at Athenry, and then studied at the studium generale at Bologna, before becoming a collegial student from 1628 at the Minerva studium generale in Rome, where, after graduate studies, he was appointed lector of theology and confessor. Burke, who spoke Irish and English as well as Latin and Italian, was one of four Irish Dominicans proposed to Propaganda Fide in September 1633 by Master General Ridolfi for the Scottish mission, but he remained in Rome as procurator of the Irish Dominican province (1634–9) in succession to his brother Oliver Burke (qv). Burke petitioned Propaganda Fide about Scotland (1635) and Louvain (1636) and submitted reports concerning the clergy of Connacht and of Ardfert diocese in 1637. Evidently well informed about the Irish situation, he complained bitterly about the harassment of Dominicans by Hugh O'Reilly (qv), archbishop of Armagh, the bishop of Clogher, and the Franciscans. He was proposed for the sees of Clonfert, Killala, and Achonry between 1638 and 1640 but was appointed to none of them. In 1639 he was sent to London to arbitrate among quarrelling English Dominicans, carried out a canonical visitation, and appointed a new superior there. During his sojourn in London he was praised by Mgr Carlo Rossetti, papal representative, who reported to Cardinal Antonio Barberini that Burke was patronised by Ulick Burke (qv), earl of Clanricard and of St Albans, and the marchioness of Winchester, who had recommended him for Killala or Achonry. He served as Dominican vicar provincial for one year (c.1641).
By 1642 he was a master of theology and referred to as ‘the great doctor’. In that year he was elected prior of Athenry and this mandate was renewed. At Athenry he promoted theological studies and was responsible for the repair and refurbishment of the priory church, which was made possible through the devoted liberality of Clanricard. It was also during his priorship that one of his many patrons, Edmund Burke of Kilcornan, built the chapel of the Holy Rosary in the priory church.
Clanricard's support for Athenry is indicative of his close involvement with Burke's career. Dominic and his brother Oliver had served as domestic chaplains and advisers to Clanricard. However, by threat of dire canonical penalties and censure, the Dominican vicar provincial, Dominic Nugent, persuaded them, in the best interests of the catholic faith, to leave Clanricard's household. They had departed Portumna before 15 September 1642. The pronounced religious intolerance of Charles I towards catholicism was widely perceived as contrary to the best interests of all catholics in Ireland, and Clanricard's continuing faithful service to the king (reflected in his elevation to a marquessate in 1645) was at the root of Nugent's intervention. This may have contributed to undermining the earl's catholic political support as governor of the town and county of Galway. Nonetheless, Dominic Burke continued to be Clanricard's political agent and envoy to the confederation of Kilkenny. He dealt directly with the supreme council, the papal nuncio, GianBattista Rinuccini (qv), and the leading personalities of the confederation, as well as with General Thomas Preston (qv) and the marquess of Ormond (qv). He resolutely opposed Rinuccini's outlook by personal conviction, by zealous adherence to the politics of Clanricard's pro-English party, and through the influence of several prelates: his brothers John Burke (qv), archbishop of Tuam (1647–67), and Hugh Burke OFM, bishop of Kilmacduagh (1647–c.1654), Francis Kirwan (qv), bishop of Killala (1645–61), Andrew Lynch (qv), bishop of Kilfenora (1648–81), the Franciscans Valentine Browne, George Dillon, and Peter Walsh (qv), and two Galway Carmelites. Considering the civil war unjust, in Dublin in December 1646 he signed his approval of the Ormond peace and refused Rinuccini's citation to Kilkenny. Luke Wadding (qv) OFM had already notified Cardinal Antonio Barberini that both Oliver and Dominic Burke had opposed the Irish war and added that some had suggested that both should be removed from Ireland. Burke remained faithful to the marquess of Clanricard, and continued in his service for some time. By October 1648, however, as political and religious disaster became imminent for Ireland, Dominic Burke (perhaps the only Dominican to oppose Rinuccini vociferously and publicly), his three episcopal relatives, and many others, had repented of their stand against Rinuccini.
Burke died in 1649. His great-nephew the Dominican historiographer John O'Heyne (qv) described him as of serious, pious, and prudent disposition. By his continental priestly training in an international religious order, in common with several other interrelated Dominicans of the Upper MacWilliam Burkes and Dominicans from other leading Connacht families, he was a man of integrity and truth, well fitted for Dominican ministry, diplomacy, oratory, administration, and a prominent role in the affairs of troubled mid-seventeenth-century Ireland.