Moriarty, David (1814–77), catholic bishop, was born 18 August 1814 at Derryvrin, Lixnaw, Co. Kerry, second eldest of three sons and two daughters of David Moriarty, farmer, and Bridget Moriarty (née Stokes), both of Kerry. As he grew up he came under the influence of a number of priests who helped form his early education. He then entered the preparatory school at Boulogne sur Mer, which was under the guidance of Abbé Haffreinque. In August 1831 Moriarty entered St Patrick's College, Maynooth, where he distinguished himself academically. He was ordained on 25 April 1839 for the diocese of Kerry. However, as there was no vacancy at that time he applied for a position in the Irish College, Paris. He was appointed vice-rector and dean. He remained there until the spring of 1844, when he returned to Ireland, where he taught physics and belles lettres at All Hallows College, Dublin. When Fr John Hand (qv), president of the college, died in May 1846, Moriarty succeeded him and immediately set about building up All Hallows by introducing the Sulpician system of formation which he had observed in Paris. He also travelled widely, seeking funds for the college.
In 1852 Cornelius Egan (1780–1856), bishop of Kerry, applied to Rome for a coadjutor as he was suffering from ill health. Although David Moriarty was not the first choice of the priests of the diocese, he had the support of Paul Cullen (qv), archbishop of Dublin. In February 1854 Moriarty was appointed bishop of Antigonia and coadjutor bishop of Kerry. He was consecrated on 25 April by Cullen. On his return to Kerry he resided in Tralee until the death of Cornelius Egan on 22 July 1856. He then moved to Killarney, the cathedral town.
From the start of his episcopacy Moriarty set about reorganising the diocese. Schools were built, churches renovated, and the decrees of the synod of Thurles (1850) implemented. His first task was to administer the sacrament of confirmation. In the first six months he confirmed over 15,600 adults and children. It was on such occasions that David Moriarty made himself accessible to young and old, clergy and laity. He invited priests from different religious orders to conduct missions in the diocese as he found a general absence of religious knowledge amongst the laity. He was a strong believer in education, especially at primary level, but also recognised the problems caused by the lack of provision for secondary education and established St Brendan's seminary, Killarney, in 1860. To help him in his work of evangelising the diocese he invited the Franciscans and Dominicans to return to Killarney and Tralee respectively.
David Moriarty was a theologian of note and a friend of John Henry Newman (qv). He was acquainted with continental writers such as Montalembert and Lacordaire, and had an outstanding knowledge of scripture and the writings of the Fathers of the early Christian church. He believed in the need for the church to be constantly renewing itself, and placed special emphasis on catechising the children of the diocese. He was constantly reminding priests of the importance of preaching the word of God. A feature of his episcopacy was his annual meeting with the clergy, when he encouraged them in their work. Many of these talks were later published under the title Allocutions to the clergy and pastorals . . . (1884). At the first Vatican council (1869–70) David Moriarty was among a minority opposed to the definition of papal infallibility. However, once it was defined as a dogma of the church he accepted without hesitation. He was called on to sort out problems that had arisen among the staff of the Irish College, Paris. At his suggestion the college was placed under the administration of the Vincentian Order. Although an admirer of the Young Irelanders, David Moriarty was opposed to all political violence, and spoke out against Fenianism. After an abortive Fenian rebellion near Kells, Co. Kerry, he famously declared during a sermon in Killarney cathedral on Sunday 17 February 1867 that ‘when we look down into the fathomless depth of this infamy of the heads of the Fenian conspiracy, we must acknowledge that eternity is not long enough nor hell hot enough to punish such miscreants’ (Tralee Chronicle, 19 Feb. 1867). He later believed that these words ‘conveyed too harsh an expression of indignation’ (Moriarty to Kirby, 20 Mar. 1867; archives, Irish College, Rome), but they became notorious none the less. He later opposed the home rule movement; indeed he supported the link with England and was a unionist at heart. His stance in favour of the liberal candidate in the 1872 by-election for Kerry brought disagreement with several of his priests who were supporters of the successful home rule candidate. During the latter years of his life ill-health limited his activities. The end came suddenly: he suffered a heart attack on 29 September and died on 1 October 1877. He is buried in St Mary's cathedral, Killarney. A portrait hangs in St Patrick's College, Maynooth.