Haicéad (Hackett), Pádraigín (1610s?–1654), Dominican priest and Gaelic poet, was probably born in the second decade of the seventeenth century, second son of James Hackett FitzPiers and his wife Margaret Kearney, of Baltarsna in the parish of Ballysheehan, Co. Tipperary. ‘Pádraigín’ had been a popular Christian name among the Hacketts of the barony of Middlethird since the fourteenth century. It has been suggested on the evidence of the poetry he composed for Edmund Butler, 3rd baron of Dunboyne, that as a child Haicéad was fostered with that family at their residence at Kiltinan, near Fethard, Co. Tipperary.
Through his mother's family, the Kearneys (a branch of the Uí Chearna Chaisil of Ballyduagh) of Knockanglass, Co. Tipperary, Haicéad was related to the Butlers of Ballywadley, a cadet branch of the Dunboyne Butlers. It may be assumed that his mother was the Margaret, daughter of Brian Kearney (d. 1632) of Knockanglass and his wife, Margaret Cantwell (d. 1622), who died in childbirth on 10 October 1640. Margaret was the daughter of Richard Cantwell of Poynestown, Co. Tipperary. Significantly, one of Haicéad mother's brothers, Patrick Kearney, became a Dominican priest and reader in divinity at the university of Louvain, while another, Edmond Kearney (d. 1651), inherited Knockanglass.
Her father's second brother, Michael Kearney of Ballylosky, north of Fethard, must have considerably influenced Haicéad's interest in Gaelic literature and history. Michael is best known for his translation to English (1635) of the famous history Foras feasa ar Éirinn by Geoffrey Keating (qv). A retainer of Margaret Butler, dowager Baroness Dunboyne, Michael had his arms confirmed by the office of Ulster (1635), and in the funeral entry submitted to the same office for his father, Patrick Kearney (d. 1641), Michael is described as a burgess of Fethard. If, as seems quite likely, Michael may have been personally acquainted with Keating, it is possible that he may have introduced Haicéad to the latter.
Haicéad's poetry shows him to have been conversant with the mindset of elite bardic culture. It is probable that as a young man he frequented the company of the local Ó Con Mhuighe bardic family, and in view of his mixed Gaelic and Anglo-Norman parentage it may be concluded that Haicéad was raised in an Irish-speaking environment where families from both historic ethnic communities intermixed unselfconsciously. The mid fifteenth-century bardic elegy composed for Philip Hackett of Ballysheehan vividly underlines the extent to which this Anglo-Norman family had become gaelicised in cultural idiom. Like many Irishmen of this period, Haicéad was multilingual, being competent in English, French, Latin, and Flemish in addition to Irish.
Concrete details relating to Haicéad's life and career are sparse. He entered the Dominican order sometime around 1627, when he was listed as a student at the Dominican convent of Coleraine along with his relatives John Baptist Hackett (qv) and Patrick Kearney. It has been proposed that Haicéad in fact studied at the Dominican convent in Limerick at this period (Ní Cheallacháin, 1962) and that his documented association with Coleraine may have arisen from a secretarial error or misunderstanding. Passing through southern England in 1628, Haicéad proceeded to the Irish Dominican house at Louvain, where he appears to have still been resident in 1630. He spent the greater part of the 1630s on the Continent. In 1632 he was at Morlaix in Brittany, and in the period 1634–5 his presence was recorded at the Dominican convent of Rennes, while in 1635 he was assigned to the church of St Jacques in Paris.
Haicéad returned to Ireland at some stage in the late 1630s and was appointed prior of the Dominican convent at Cashel, approximately three miles from his family's homeplace. The outbreak of the 1641 rebellion and the subsequent formation of the confederation, uniting both Gaelic and Old English in the government of the greater part of the island between 1642 and 1649, represent both a personal and ideological watershed in the work of Haicéad. He worked actively to advance the interests of the papal nuncio, GianBattista Rinuccini (qv), archbishop of Fermo, and when the confederation split in 1646, Haicéad mercilessly satirised those whom he felt had betrayed the nuncio and by extension the Roman catholic and Irish cause. In the Commentarius Rinuccinianus, a contemporary account of the papal nuncio's mission to Ireland based on original documents relating to confederate politics, there are four references dated 1647 to complaints made to the confederate authorities in Kilkenny that Haicéad, along with other priests of his order, had been encouraging sedition among the troops at Clonmel.
By 1651 Haicéad had returned to Louvain, from where he wrote to Rinuccini (21 April), complaining of the apparent willingness of some Irish bishops to compromise with the marquess of Ormond (qv) in 1649–50. Notwithstanding such treachery, he assured his correspondent of the determination of the mass of the Irish population to maintain its loyalty to the catholic faith and of its readiness to withstand the worst depredations of Cromwell's forces. Haicéad appears to have spent the remainder of his life unhappily at Louvain. In 1652 he unsuccessfully sought permission from the head of the Dominican order, John Baptist de Marinis, to return to Ireland to prepare for his proposed role as the Irish delegate to the order's forthcoming general chapter. Relentless in his promotion of the Irish and catholic causes, he wrote in 1652 of his plans for a book documenting what he perceived to be Ormond's malign intervention in the affairs of the confederacy. It may have been during this phase of his life that he compiled in association with Baothghalach Óg Mac Aodhagáin, OFM, a now lost Latin ‘Annals of the kingdom of Ireland’. Haicéad's final years were beset by a somewhat farcical squabble concerning the rotation of the headship of the Irish Dominican house at Louvain among natives of the four Irish provinces respectively. He was characteristically vehement in his denunciation of the Connacht head of house, William de Burgo, who it was claimed was attempting to fill the college with men from the western province. Having incurred the wrath of de Marinis and de Burgo, in no small measure due to the harshness of his invective, Haicéad died in November 1654 in advance of the conclusion of the official investigation of the affair.
Haicéad is not remembered for his marginal role in the politics of the 1640s; rather his significance lies in his literary and historical importance as a major Gaelic poet of the seventeenth century. While bearing the undoubted intellectual imprint of bardic precursors, Haicéad is prominent among the ranks of the new early seventeenth-century cadre of non-professional poets who combined bardic and broader cultural influences to redirect the composition of poetry in Irish. His poetic brilliance is exemplified, for instance, in his reinvigoration of the traditional Gaelic elegy, such as ‘Druididh suas, a chuaine an chaointe’ (‘Move aside, band of keeners’) which he composed in memory of Edmund Butler (1640), and where he succeeded in redeploying bardic conventions and motifs in a manner that is spectacularly passionate and heartfelt. His technical and linguistic skills are evident in the variety of genres he tackled so successfully: love poetry, poems of exile, occasional pieces, political poetry, and of course elegies. The best of his work is characterised by his deeply personal, often fierce and impassioned, manipulation of traditional motifs to discuss new themes, especially in the area of politics and sectarian polemics.
Haicéad's highly politicised consciousness of Irish nationality, which he linked intimately to profession of the Roman catholic faith, is brilliantly articulated in political poems such as ‘Éirghe mo dhúitche le Dia’ (‘May my homeland rise for God’) and ‘Músgail do mhisneach, a Bhanbha’ (‘Summon your courage, Ireland’) composed to the backdrop of political and social upheaval in the 1640s. Haicéad's unparalleled intellectual audacity and powerful exposition of his political credo invest his work with a cultural and ideological significance which has yet to be exploited by historians of seventeenth-century Ireland. A scholarly annotated edition of Haicéad's extant poetry is available in Ní Cheallacháin (1962).