Hutchinson, Richard Hely- (1756–1825), 1st earl of Donoghmore , politician, was born 20 January 1756, eldest son of John Hely-Hutchinson (qv), lawyer and MP, and his wife, Christiana (d. 1788), daughter of Abraham Nickson of Munny, Co. Wicklow. John Hely-Hutchinson, a man noted for advancing the interests of himself and his family, obtained for Richard his first sinecure (second remembrancer at the court of exchequer at £600 a year) in 1764, when he was eight years old. After attending Eton (1767–72), Richard entered Magdalen College, Oxford (6 July 1772), but did not graduate as his father, now provost of TCD, transferred him to that college (BA 1775) so that he could sit for the university seat. His nomination met with intense resistance from the fellows and from Dublin liberals, whose candidate was William Doyle, a master in chancery. Doyle's publication of an address impugning the provost led to the Hely-Hutchinsons, father and son, challenging him to duels. These took place in January 1775; his father's duel aroused so much publicity that Richard had to meet Doyle in Calais. Neither was wounded. The election was predictably rowdy, and when Richard won the poll a successful petition was made against him, leading to the return of John Fitzgibbon (qv), later lord chancellor. Richard sat instead for the less prestigious constituency of Sligo (1778–83). In the house he followed his father in supporting the government and speaking often, but inherited little of his ability. However, his charm and his skill as a swordsman made him popular. During 1783 he again sprang to his father's defence over differences arising from the Cork representation, and fought two more duels in the space of a couple of days in Cork in September/October. That year he purchased the parliamentary seat of Taghmon, Co. Wexford, from the Hoare family, and sat 1783–8. His mother was created a peeress in 1783, with remainder to her sons, and on her death (1788) Richard became the 2nd Baron Donoughmore.
His father was a supporter of catholic rights, and Richard and his brothers, three of whom sat in parliament, continued this tradition. Catholic relief was the leitmotif of Donoghmore's political career: in the early 1790s he made several speeches in the lords in favour, and in December 1792 persuaded the Catholic Convention to send their petition for relief to the king through Dublin Castle, but had then to report that the lord lieutenant refused this undertaking.
He became grand master of the Freemasons of Ireland (1789–1812) and, stirred by the war with France, raised in 1793 a regiment of masons which became known as the 94th or ‘Hutchinson's’ Foot. His brother John Hely-Hutchinson (qv) was gazetted colonel. From surplus officers, Donoghmore raised another regiment, the 112th or ‘Donoghmore's’, which he commanded himself, having been gazetted, in quick succession, cornet, major, and finally lieutenant-colonel (21 July 1794). This regiment was subsequently broken up and Donoghmore went on half-pay, although he continued to hold various military ranks until his death. In 1796 he raised a yeomanry corps, the Cork Legion, in that city, largely for electioneering purposes as his family's political interests were centred on Cork (his father and his brother Christopher both sat for the city). It was the largest yeomanry corps in Cork and contained many wealthy catholics, despite the Catholic Committee's dispatch of a delegate to Cork to dissuade enlistment, and some loyalists such as Sir Richard Musgrave (qv) questioned its loyalty. In 1799 this Legion published an anti-union address, but Donoghmore himself supported the union, because he apparently believed it would facilitate catholic emancipation; his support also won him an earldom (31 December 1800).
From 1810 until his death Donoghmore was the champion of the catholic cause in the lords, where he repeatedly introduced bills and presented the Catholic Committee's petitions to parliament. He was proud of his role – and, according to his brother, John, guarded it jealously – but relations with the Catholic Board were not always easy. In March 1814 he complained, with Henry Grattan (qv), the main spokesman for catholics in the commons, that the board sought to dictate his parliamentary conduct. O'Connell (qv) helped patch up that quarrel but five months later he characterised the Cork catholics as slavish for leaving their petition in Donoghmore's hands after an ‘excessively impertinent and insolent letter’ (O'Connell corr., ii, 381). Donoghmore continued as the board's advocate, with, for the most part, O'Connell's support. However, though his enthusiasm was undoubted, his ability was not. His brother John remarked that he deteriorated with age and became ‘very difficult to act with, apt to take offence without any provocation, taking up opinions without any previous consideration, and adhering to them with a degree of pertinacity quite extraordinary’ (HIP, iv, 407). A London correspondent of O'Connell's warned that Donoghmore was ‘no credit and little support to any cause … [he is] an outrageous enemy of the queen … and a laughing-stock to the house’ (O'Connell corr., iii, 291). He was also castigated for venality, since he picked up sinecures as assiduously as his father. In 1783 he acquired two offices – one valued at £500 a year – and in 1785 was made a commissioner of the revenue at £1,000 a year. In 1802 he became first revenue commissioner. After widespread complaints of his neglect and abuse of this office, he was finally ‘retired’ in 1806, with the government arguing that his dismissal was a step towards efficiency.
In spring 1825 he became unwell but recovered enough to move the second reading of the catholic relief bill on 17 May. He died, however, three months later, on 25 August 1825 at his London home at 4 Bulstrode St., Manchester Square. Unmarried, he was succeeded by his brother John, Lord Hutchinson. The Catholic Association on 10 November 1825 paid tribute to his memory as the hereditary patron of the catholics.