Moran, David Patrick (‘D. P.’) (1869–1936), nationalist journalist, was born 22 March 1869 in Manor, Co. Waterford, youngest among twenty children of James Moran, building contractor, who constructed several large ecclesiastical and civic buildings in late nineteenth-century Waterford (including the Magdalen asylum), and Elizabeth Moran (née Casey). An elder brother, Alexander, was a member of a literary-political circle in Waterford associated with Edmund Downey (qv) and Richard Dowling (qv) before emigrating to Brooklyn, where he was active in physical-force nationalism and ghost-wrote a novel published over the name of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa (qv). A sister, Olive (married name Brooke Hughes) conducted a social and cultural journal, the Irish Outlook, in Cork in the years before the first world war. It is not clear whether or how far Moran's only novel, Tom O'Kelly (1905), which satirises the hero's adolescent separatist fantasies and the anglicised social pretensions of his family and describes the wrecking of a family business through its proprietor's involvement in alcohol and parliamentary politics, reflects Moran's own family circumstances.
Early journalism; the Gaelic League
D. P. Moran, as he came to be known, was educated at Castleknock College, Dublin, whither his brother Joseph had earlier been sent to remove him from the influence of local militant nationalism. In 1887 Moran went to London, where he worked as a journalist on the Star, an evening paper owned by T. P. O'Connor (qv); in the 1890s he worked on London local papers and spent some time with the Estates Gazette. By Moran's own account he began his residence in London by haranguing every English acquaintance on Ireland's wrongs, only to discover that most English people knew little and cared less about Ireland. He was secretary of a branch of the Irish National League and supported C. S. Parnell (qv) during the split; according to W. P. Ryan (qv) he was at this time outspokenly anti-clerical. After the death of Parnell, Moran went through a period of profound disillusion with Irish nationalist politics, reinforced by his growing awareness of the extent of British imperial power and wealth and the comparative weakness and poverty of Ireland; he acquired Social Darwinist attitudes from London University extension courses in economics (where his teachers included Sidney Webb), and Arthur Griffith (qv) later claimed that at this time Moran was notorious in London Irish circles for his vociferously expressed cynicism on patriotic topics. Nonetheless, Moran retained a basic sense of Irish catholic identity and an unwillingness to accept assimilation into English life, as his brother Joseph (also a London journalist) was to do. Another close Moran relative, presumably a sibling, is alleged by Thomas Connellan (qv), who regularly attacked Moran in his paper The Catholic, to have converted to protestantism.
In 1896 Moran found a new focus for his sense of Irishness through the Gaelic League, to which he was introduced by Fionan Mac Coluim (1875–1966). In 1898 he revisited Ireland; his experiences inspired the first of a series of articles, published in the New Ireland Review (1898–1900), and collected in book form (1905) as The philosophy of Irish Ireland, in which he outlined the tensions between the idealised self-image subscribed to by nationalists and their unexpressed suspicions of its falsity, the role of social snobbery in creating an anti-entrepreneurial mentality, and the process by which a middle-class catholic might gravitate from adolescent separatism through constitutional nationalism to outright Castle catholicism. Such acerbic social commentary was accompanied by advocacy of a version of Irish identity combining the view of Douglas Hyde (qv) of the Irish language as the unexpressed core of Irishness – the view that while protestants could be Irish, Ireland was inextricably catholic – and ridicule of the ‘Celtic note’ in literature (with particular reference to W. B. Yeats (qv), whom Moran had encountered at the Irish Literary Society in London).
The Leader; polemics and patronage
In 1899 Moran returned to Dublin, where he wrote for the Healyite Daily Nation and An Claidheamh Soluis and undertook a bicycle tour of the country while planning a new weekly paper, the Leader. Its title reflected Moran's view that the autocratic political leadership which Parnell had exercised with such success had become stultifying and farcical under his successors (William O'Brien (qv) was a particular target) and must be replaced by educational journalism – a view that has affinities with the Young Ireland critique of O'Connell. The first issue appeared on 1 August 1900 and the paper was an immediate success, largely through Moran's caustic commentary on the events of the day, which became known for its uncompromising views, its zest for controversy, its acerbic tone, and its brilliant use of polemical language.
The Leader rapidly built up a vocabulary of nicknames and insults which provided delight to those in the know (so long as they were not the ones being criticised) and provided a lasting source of the paper's appeal. A particular type of self-righteous loyalist (usually but not always protestant) was referred to as a ‘Sourface’ after Moran observed the gloomy faces on the Rathmines tram shortly after Queen Victoria's death. When ultra-protestant protestors defeated plans to remove from the coronation ceremony of Edward VII a declaration by the new monarch that he believed transubstantiation and Mariolatry to be idolatrous, Moran referred to himself and his fellow catholics as ‘Idolators’, with occasional references to protestants as ‘anti-Idolators’.
The Leader was supported by the Gaelic League faction that favoured Munster Irish and a more explicit nationalist commitment by the organisation (as against the Connacht-centred leadership and the ‘Pan-Celt’ faction, which contained many unionists); Moran often criticised the League leadership for lacking professionalism. Although the paper was mostly written in English, it had a weekly Irish column, whose authors included an t-Athair Peadar Ó Laoghaire (qv) and Fr Patrick Dinneen (qv) (who became a close personal friend). Moran himself was never able to speak Irish, although he learned to read it with some difficulty; his children were sent on summer vacations to the Irish-language college at Ring, Co. Waterford. His image of the Gaelic literary tradition was mediated through the nineteenth-century romantic ‘faith and fatherland’ literature which he criticised in other contexts, and filtered out those aspects that might have jarred with lower middle-class catholic sensibilities; his version of the Gaelic revival, like his allegiance to catholicism, was not so much insincere as unreflective, to be wielded as a symbol (or a weapon) rather than explored in depth.
Moran aggressively set out to cultivate advertisers, complaining that Irish businessmen seemed to form a ‘dark brotherhood’ devoted to concealing their own existence from the public. This approach (almost unheard-of in Irish journalistic circles) paid considerable dividends, and established links with the domestically oriented and increasingly catholic Irish small business sector which did much to secure the Leader’s long-term financial base.
The Leader also benefited from clerical patronage and advertisements. Stanislaus Joyce (qv) claimed Moran had been encouraged to set it up by Jesuits seeking a counterweight to Arthur Griffith's somewhat anti-clerical United Irishman. Moran was certainly close to Fr Thomas Finlay (qv), whose influence accounts for Moran's initially favourable attitude towards Horace Plunkett (qv). (This cooled rapidly after the publication of Plunkett's anti-clerical Ireland in the new century; Moran serialised the riposte Catholicity and progress in Ireland by Fr Michael O'Riordan (qv).) Moran joined with the Dominican-run monthly Irish Rosary in attacking discrimination against catholics in employment and commerce, especially in railway companies and banks. This crusade led to the formation of the Catholic Association in 1902; though discountenanced by Archbishop William Walsh (qv) after its incautious advocacy of boycotts against discriminatory protestant businesses, the Association was reborn as the Catholic Defence Society; it later developed into the Knights of Columbanus, of which Moran was a member in later life. Although some protestant observers such as Stephen Gwynn (qv) agreed that Moran's documentation of disparity between protestant and catholic employment patterns within certain firms made his accusations of discrimination unanswerable, he was accused of anti-protestant bigotry not only by the Orange extremist Lindsay Crawford (qv) (who claimed in his paper the Irish Protestant – which Moran described as ‘our funny contemporary’ – that Moran was ‘an agent of the Dominican lnquisition’ and accused him of wishing to have employment determined by clerical patronage) but by the secularist Frederick Ryan (qv), who said that the campaign should have focused on securing equal rights for all rather than presenting the issue as a specifically catholic grievance. Moran's support for the 1904 boycott of Jews in Limerick added weight to the charge. His anti-Semitism appears to have been less intellectualised and more visceral than that of Arthur Griffith, who was capable of combining belief in cosmopolitan Jewish political intrigues with friendship for individual Jews.
The religious orders and education
Moran's relations with the religious orders who ran Ireland's most prestigious schools were ambivalent. Their graduates stood to benefit from his anti-discrimination campaigns; this issue, combined with Moran's Irish-Ireland gospel, led such Jesuit-educated University College graduates as Arthur Clery (qv), William Dawson (qv), Hugh Kennedy (qv), and Louis J. Walsh (qv) to become regular Leader contributors. On the other hand, Moran denounced the most prestigious religious-run schools for lacking interest in Irish culture and language, discouraging business enterprise by instilling a false gentility into their pupils, and setting their sights on professional employment in Ireland and the empire, rather than encouraging Irish national self-confidence and patriotism. The Dominicans’ Newbridge College was held up as a true Irish-Ireland college (Moran's daughter was to be educated by Dominican nuns), while his own alma mater, Castleknock, was subjected to particularly severe attacks as ‘that cricket and ping-pong college … a brake on the Irish wheel’. In the college's Vincentian president, Paul Cullen (d. 1945), who referred contemptuously to Irish as ‘Oirish’ in private, Moran was to meet his match. Cullen's staging of a series of Gaelic pageants at Castleknock from 1908 onwards was enough to blunt the Leader’s critical interest in the college. Moran also evaded attacking the Irish catholic bishops over their resistance to making Irish a compulsory subject in the National University of Ireland (NUI) (on the grounds that it might lead some graduates of high-class catholic schools to go to Trinity instead) and the dismissal of Dr Michael O'Hickey (qv) from his post in Maynooth for his splenetic denunciations of the opponents of compulsion. While advocating compulsion himself, Moran cited the bishops’ ambiguous public statements to claim that they treated the issue as one for legitimate debate and that O'Hickey's dismissal was a matter of internal discipline not directly relevant to the wider controversy. P. H. Pearse (qv), a long-term recipient of criticism from Moran's Munster allies, commented that Moran was trying to side simultaneously with the hounds and the hare.
The literary revival
Moran's relations with the Irish literary revival were tense. He always enjoyed the comedies of Lady Gregory (qv) (and Gregory, though disliking his sectarianism, made some attempt to cultivate him in the theatrical movement's best interests); and Edward Martyn (qv) and his protégés used the Leader as a platform in their campaign to improve Irish church art and music. Martyn's relations with Moran were punctuated by fallings-out over Martyn's links to Griffith's Sinn Féin – Moran referred to ‘King Edward VIII’ of the ‘Martynettes’ – followed by ritualised reconciliations involving semi-humorous exchanges of insults; Martyn privately advised a friend that the trick of handling Moran was to treat him as a joke, and that it was fatal to take him seriously. George Moore (qv) was dismissed as ‘Old Moore’, and AE (qv) (George Russell) became ‘the Hairy Fairy’ (especially when he published a sonorous pamphlet denouncing Moran's attacks on Plunkett as devoid of true spirituality). W. B. Yeats was called ‘a minor poet’, seeking to make Ireland pagan in order to evade its catholicism, and was informed that Ireland needed a popular singer such as Robert Burns. (Moran's attacks on Yeats featured a certain wistful admiration for the poet as a successful man on the make, and Moran was occasionally willing to grant Yeats's requests that his critics should skimp on certain features of new Abbey plays.)
Moran's overall attitude to the Abbey plays was cheerfully philistine, and most serious criticism was left to Clery and Dawson. The reception of the ‘Playboy of the western world’ by J. M. Synge (qv), marked the nadir of Moran's relations with the Abbey. The Leader’s principal direct contribution to Irish literature in English was its publication of the early criticism of Daniel Corkery (qv) (1878–1964); echoes of Moran's rhetoric, however, can be found in the speeches of the Citizen in the ‘Cyclops’ chapter of James Joyce's (qv) Ulysses, and Moran was a significant inspiration for the withering dissections by Joyce and Yeats of the relationship between an unreal, idealised Irish self-image and the destructive, nihilistic bitterness of Irish public rhetoric and politico-cultural debate. (Ironically, this disparity is a major theme of The philosophy of Irish Ireland: Moran can thus be said to have fallen victim to a disease he himself diagnosed.)
Politics; the crusade against ‘evil literature’
In the early years of the Leader Moran held that cultural and economic nationalism were the true path to national rebirth (‘once we had home power we could laugh at those who would deny us home rule’), while deriding the Irish parliamentary party as verbose and largely irrelevant bullies. He was even more scathing in his views of separatist ‘tin-pikers’, whom he dismissed as infantile fantasists; home rule was attainable but British power would always make complete separation unattainable, and the violent rhetoric employed by separatists (and even, to some extent, by parliamentary nationalists) simply played into the hands of unionists. Moran advocated a ‘Collar the king’ policy – instead of lapsing into shoneen servility like older catholic whigs, nationalists should accompany statements of grievances with professions of loyalty, while regretting that under present circumstances this loyalty could not be fully put into practice. Arthur Griffith accused ‘D. P. Hooligan’ of seeking ‘a Welshified Ireland strumming a harp of Birmingham manufacture’. (In Griffith's Resurrection of Hungary, unnamed ‘jellyfish’ are depicted trying to persuade the Hungarian leader Francis Deák to adopt the ‘Collar the king’ policy.) Griffith also accused Moran of treating past separatists such as Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv) and James Stephens (qv) as ‘criminals’ and pursuing a policy of ‘Ireland for the Italians’ (i.e. the catholic clergy), while Moran ridiculed Griffith's followers as ‘the green Hungarian band’.
Moran's downgrading of political nationalism had its greatest resonance under the apparently unshakable Conservative/unionist political dominance at the beginning of the twentieth century. After the Liberal landslide of 1906, and even more so after the inconclusive general elections of 1910 returned home rule to the political agenda, Moran reinvented himself as a candid friend of the Irish parliamentary party, opening his pages to a number of young intellectuals, predominantly graduates of University College Cork (UCC), who advocated reform of the party.
Moran had long denounced ‘evil literature’ and hoped that the Gaelic League might provide wholesome forms of entertainment for young people. In 1911 he supported a renewed clerically led crusade against ‘immoral’ imported newspapers and ‘evil literature’, a movement that was to contribute to the culture of censorship in post-independence Ireland. Although Moran initially supported a limited measure of women's suffrage, he came to oppose it altogether because of the tactics of militant suffragettes (whom Leader cartoons portrayed as demented, implicitly protestant, spinsters, accompanied by ‘Skeffy’ – Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (qv), a favourite Moran target – in the guise of an organ-grinder's monkey). Similarly, although Moran regularly attacked William Martin Murphy (qv) as the embodiment of cosmopolitan economics and referred to the Daily Mail-style journalism of his Irish Independent as ‘Snippy Bits’, he opposed the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union (ITGWU) in the 1913 lock-out because he believed the tactics of James Larkin (qv) and his allies would inflict massive damage on Irish industry. His views on this matter was confirmed by plans to give strikers’ children refuge in England; protestant proselytism in the Dublin slums had long been a concern for Moran (as for his clerical allies) and he saw this project as proselytism under a new guise.
Home rule, the 1916 rising, and independence
During the political crises surrounding the third home rule bill Moran (like many other nationalists) dismissed as bluff the threats of resistance emanating from the Ulster Volunteer Force, while presenting Ulster unionists as violent and bigoted ignoramuses manipulated by profiteering bosses and ambitious lawyers. Moran favoured the creation of the Irish Volunteers (he was offered a position on the first Volunteer executive but declined because of business pressure) but supported the demand of John Redmond (qv) that the movement should subordinate itself to his leadership. However, Moran broke with Redmond over the issue of Irish recruitment for foreign service at the outbreak of the first world war.
The offices of the Leader were destroyed during the 1916 insurrection, although the paper rapidly resumed publication. Moran initially continued to support the Irish parliamentary party for fear that the rise of Sinn Féin would lead to a paralysing split on the lines of the Parnell controversy; however, he moved to supporting Sinn Féin after the parliamentary party's by-election defeats in early and mid 1917, and took to claiming that the Irish-Ireland movement (rather than Griffith's party) had laid the basis for this great national upsurge. In August 1919 the Leader was suppressed by the government for carrying dáil loan advertisements, but Moran managed to resume publication by launching the New Leader (which resumed its original title some months later) under the nominal proprietorship of Joseph Dolan (qv).
Moran supported the Anglo–Irish treaty and blamed the civil war on the stupidity of the republicans. While still attacking ‘Masonic’ influences (particularly in the large business and export sector), he now downgraded their importance, arguing that Irish catholics must realise that they were now free, and that if they let Freemasons boss them it was their own fault for not being more enterprising. He extended a qualified welcome to partition, hoping that a prosperous and culturally self-confident Irish state would eventually absorb the Ulster unionists on its own terms.
Influenced by his small business associates, Moran became an outspoken advocate of protectionism and opponent of the pro-rancher, free-trade policies associated with Patrick Hogan (qv), whom he called ‘the minister for grass and emigration’. After the 1927 general elections made it clear that the protectionist faction within Cumann na nGaedheal led by J. J. Walsh (qv) (1880–1948) and William Sears (qv) had been decisively marginalised, Moran switched to supporting Fianna Fáil in hope that their secession from the republican purists of Sinn Féin and entry into the dáil meant that they could be relied on politically. (Moran also had a great deal of respect for the abilities of Seán Lemass (qv); the Moran and Lemass families were close friends and Lemass later acknowledged that Moran had influenced his economic views.) By 1930, however, Moran decided Fianna Fáil were politically unreliable, and returned reluctantly to support Cumann na nGaedheal. After the 1932 general election he declared that Fianna Fáil deserved a chance to prove themselves; by 1933, as the economic war intensified and street violence increased, he came to believe that Fianna Fáil had shown itself to be both incompetent and undemocratic. Regarding Eoin O'Duffy (qv) (whom he had never actually met) as an able administrator and man of action, he regarded O'Duffy's dismissal as Garda commissioner as outrageous political persecution, and interpreted Fianna Fáil's subsequent denunciations of the Blueshirts, as a danger to democracy, as intended to provide a pretext for Fianna Fáil itself to crush its opponents and establish a dictatorship. These fears abated after O'Duffy's 1934 break with Fine Gael; thereafter Moran supported Fine Gael while advocating a government of national unity led by the best men from both parties. D. P. Moran died suddenly at his home in Skerries, Co. Dublin on 1 February 1936.
He married (9 January 1901) Theresa Catherine, daughter of Thomas Francis O'Toole, a former Parnellite mayor of Waterford. They had four sons and one daughter. His daughter, Nuala (who had written for the paper since the early 1920s, generally on artistic and social matters over the initial ‘N’), took over the running of the paper on his death, though it was then much diminished in size and influence. Nuala, who never married, retained control of the Leader until it ceased publication in 1971; she was also a co-founder of An Réalt, the Irish-language section of the Legion of Mary.
Moran's trenchant version of nationalism, valorising catholicism and Gaelicism and virtually excluding protestantism from the ambit of Irishness, has drawn a great deal of criticism then and since. Unquestionably he contributed to some of the narrower aspects of the post-independence state; but he is distinguished from such ideologues as Timothy Corcoran (qv) and Gearoid Ó Cuinneagáin (qv) by his genuine fondness for debate and willingness to argue his corner with the world around him, rather than retreating into paranoid fantasies of total command and obedience. He addressed genuine social and political tensions, even if his approach was often destructive.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).