Harty, John (1867–1946), catholic archbishop of Cashel, was born 11 August 1867 in Knocknagurteeny, Murroe, Co. Limerick, son of Francis Harty and his wife, Johana, née Ryan. He was educated locally and at the Jesuits' Crescent College, Limerick. In 1884 he went to St Patrick's College, Thurles, and two years later proceeded to Maynooth College, where he trained for the priesthood. After ordination (20 May 1894) at Clonliffe College, Dublin, he returned to Maynooth; the following year he was appointed to the chair of philosophy and theology there. However, he deferred this for a year while he attended lectures at the Ecclesiastical University in Rome, as one of two professors who had been granted the new privilege of leave of absence on full salary to study abroad. Back at Maynooth he was a prominent member of staff; in 1906 he co-founded the Irish Theological Quarterly, of which he was for many years editor, and was also editor for a time of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record. His contributions to these and other periodicals were numerous and included an essay on the ‘Sacredness of fetal life’ for the Irish Theological Quarterly in 1906. As a founder member of the Maynooth manuscripts publication committee, which ran 1906–15, he helped oversee the publication of the edition of the Black book of Limerick (1907) by his colleague James MacCaffrey (qv) and of some impressive student publications, including Gadaidhe Géar na Geamh-oidche (1915), a volume of tales from the Fenian cycle from manuscripts in the library. He was appointed senior professor of moral theology but ceased teaching after he was consecrated archbishop of Cashel (18 January 1914).
Harty was early involved with the Gaelic Athletic Association – he had been a hurler in his youth – and was a strong supporter of the Irish parliamentary party. In late 1915 he furnished John Redmond (qv) with a letter of support, and a few months later was denouncing the Easter rising and congratulating the people of Cashel for abstaining from insurrection. Later that year he was involved in a French propaganda drive to boost the war effort in Ireland. As one of the four bishop delegates to the 1917 Irish convention, he spoke against a methodist delegate's call for mixed education. Criticising the protestant educational system in Belfast, he claimed the catholic church had a right to teach its own children, and effectively closed down the discussion. By April 1918 he had moved towards tacit acceptance of Sinn Féin and was at the forefront of the anti-conscription campaign. In a speech he called conscription unjust and hypocritical and called for ‘every man with a drop of Irish blood in his veins’ to sign the protest against it (Freeman's Journal, 22 Apr. 1918).
On the establishment of the Free State, he preached support for Cumann na nGaedheal, but by the 1930s was closer to de Valera (qv), and was a strong advocate of protectionism, which he felt would ensure a self-sufficient Ireland of traditional values. In 1933 he applauded the tax set on imported daily papers, as he believed English papers were corrupting the young, and at the golden jubilee of the GAA the following year he made a speech in Cashel calling for Irish industries, Irish music, and Irish dances. As president of the congress committee, he was a key organiser of the massive Eucharistic Congress of 1932. His other great concerns were the foreign missions and the promotion of catholic literature – he was president of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland. His practical work for his diocese included heading a deputation to the minister for agriculture in October 1932 to press Thurles's claims for the new sugar beet factory. It opened there in December 1934.
Although tall, athletic, and fond of open air, Harty was for many years in poor health and from about 1933 petitioned the Holy See for a coadjutor-archbishop. This finally came about in 1942 when Bishop Jeremiah Kissane of Waterford came to Cashel as his dean and coadjutor. Four years later Harty died at his residence in Thurles on 11 September 1946. He was survived by a brother and a sister. The GAA ground in his native Murroe is named after him.