Duigenan, Patrick (1735–1816), lawyer, polemicist, and politician, was born 17 March 1735. There is some controversy about his antecedents; on most records he is listed as the son of Hugh Duigenan, a protestant parish-clerk at St Werburgh's church, Dublin, but some enemies claimed that his father was a catholic farmer from Co. Leitrim. Educated at TCD, he entered 19 June 1753 after winning a scholarship, graduating BA (1757) and MA (1761). Becoming FTCD (1761), he received his LLB in 1763 and his LLD in 1765; he was also called to the Irish bar (1767).
Vehemently opposed to the election of John Hely-Hutchinson (qv) as provost of Trinity in 1771, he wrote numerous violent pamphlets stating his arguments, which were published in one volume as Lachrymae Academicae, or The present deplorable state of the college. He resigned his fellowship in protest after Hutchinson's election. Dedicating himself to his lucrative legal practice, he became KC and a bencher of the King's Inns in 1784. The following year he became the king's advocate-general of the high court of admiralty of Dublin. A extreme defender of protestant values, and a lifelong opponent of any concession to catholics, he soon won favour in protestant and government circles and was appointed vicar-general of the dioceses of Armagh, Meath, and Elphin, judge of the consistorial court of Dublin, and judge of the admiralty court.
He entered politics directly in 1790 when he became MP for Old Leighlin, Co. Carlow (1790–1801). A supporter of the government, he delivered a famous speech against catholic emancipation in 1795, which was later published. In the commons he was as renowned for his attire as for the violence of his oratory: he wore an old bob-hat and Connemara stockings. In 1800 he published a three-volume work that purported to be An impartial account of the late rebellion . . . and union. An enthusiastic supporter of the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland, he was afterwards appointed one of the commissioners to distribute compensation.
In 1801 he became grand secretary of the Orange order, and the same year he was appointed professor of civil law at Trinity. He served in the new united parliament as MP for Armagh (1801–16). Refusing to vacate his seat in January 1801 to make way for Isaac Corry (qv), he denounced the outgoing prime minister, William Pitt, the same year, as a jacobin for attempting to bring in catholic emancipation. He rarely spoke in the commons, except when roused by any proposed concession to catholics, when he had a reputation for being the most extreme speaker in parliament. He was made a privy councillor in May 1808.
Duigenan's character was a mass of contradictions; he could swing alarmingly, and inconsistently, from one position to another. He was rude and overbearing in public, always feuding with someone, yet in private was renowned for his kindness and good humour. Involved in at least two duels, each time he acquitted himself strangely; on one occasion he refused to fire, a second time he brought a blunderbuss on to the field. The extremism of his writings was not helped by his style: he wrote rapidly and never checked what he had written, believing that this would only lead him to delete the most offensive sections.
He died suddenly 11 April 1816 at his house at Bridge St., Westminster. Rumours circulated Dublin that he had converted to catholicism on his death-bed, but this story seems to have been the work of the journalist Vincent Dowling (qv). That it was given any credence, however, is a testament to Duigenan's eccentric and inconsistent character.
He married first Angelina Cusack, a Roman Catholic, whom he permitted to have a catholic chaplain reside at their house; secondly (1807) Esther Heppenstal, the widow of George Heppenstal, an Orange Order attorney, whom he married after the death of his first wife. He had no children. He left his estate to his first wife's nephew, Sir William Cusack Smith (qv), son and heir of Sir Michael Smith (1740–1808), the catholic master of the rolls in Ireland. His widow applied to the government claiming financial distress, but received little sympathy; it was remarked that Duigenan had impoverished himself to enrich her.