Murphy, Edmund (d. p.1682), priest and informer, was a native of Co. Armagh. Nothing is known of his early life. In 1670, when Oliver Plunkett (qv) took up his duties as archbishop of Armagh, Murphy was parish priest of Killeavy. The position was customarily conjoined with that of chanter of Armagh and in June Plunkett recommended that Murphy should be appointed to this office. Four years later, Plunkett suspended Murphy from his cure on grounds of drunkenness and consorting with tories and John MacMoyer (qv) was appointed to take his place. Murphy is believed to have spent some time in Spain, c. 1676, before being reinstated towards the end of the decade. He was not only associated with tories but involved in their rivalries and was a strident opponent of the most prominent among them, Redmond O'Hanlon (qv), against whom he both preached and plotted. In 1679 his activities led to his imprisonment in Dundalk where he met William Hetherington (qv). The two men combined in claiming to have information of plans for a rebellion in Ireland, to be mounted with assistance from France, in which Archbishop Plunkett was implicated. In the heightened atmosphere generated by the ‘Popish plot’ these allegations were taken seriously in England, the earl of Shaftesbury brought them to the attention of the English privy council and in May 1680 Murphy was examined before the council in London. He admitted to being unaware of any plot currently in progress and in the following month he was sent back to Ireland where he and other prospective witnesses were maintained on the establishment pending the trial of Plunkett on a charge of high treason which the lord lieutenant, the duke of Ormond (qv), was instructed to initiate.
The usefulness of Murphy's testimony was evident to Shaftesbury who saw the revelation of an Irish plot as a way of sustaining anti-catholic feeling and strengthening the case for excluding James, duke of York (qv), from the succession. He recommended Murphy to Henry Jones (qv), bishop of Meath and a member of the Irish council, who unsuccessfully sought to obtain a pardon for the offences with which Murphy had been charged in Dundalk. Murphy and Hetherington travelled to Ulster in search of evidence and witnesses and Ormond, who looked upon the informers with contempt and suspected that the underlying motive was to discredit or even implicate him, arranged to have Plunkett's trial held in Dundalk where the likelihood of a verdict of guilty was remote. When the trial opened in July 1680, most of the witnesses were unwilling to testify. Murphy refused to attend and absconded to England, apparently fearing that the charges against him would be proceeded with. The trial collapsed and the proceedings against Plunkett were transferred to England.
Murphy's subsequent behaviour became highly erratic. In October 1680, he was authorized to secure witnesses to the charge of high treason. In November, he testified before the English house of lords, where his accent proved to be unintelligible and he made a poor impression. He swore to a written account, later published as The present state and condition of Ireland, but more especially the province of Ulster (London, 1681), in which he rehearsed his experiences at length and extended the circle of conspirators to include the soldiers who had arrested him in 1679. In January 1681 he alleged that he had been ill-treated by Ormond after he had first revealed the plot. By May, however, he had admitted that he and others had been encouraged to testify against Ormond and in May he testified against Hetherington, who had instigated the allegations. He sought refuge in the Spanish embassy before Plunkett's trial in June 1681 and proved to be a hostile witness to the case for the prosecution. Although he had implicated Plunkett in the alleged Franco-Irish plot in preliminary proceedings before a Westminister grand jury, he claimed at the trial that he could not recall his previous testimony. He now implicated both Ormond and the duke of York in the larger design but insisted that the primate's intentions were strictly limited to raising some 60,000–70,000 men to support York against the duke of Monmouth should the need arise and claimed that the other witnesses were actuated by malice. After Plunkett had been found guilty, Murphy was briefly imprisoned for contempt of court before being sent back to Ireland in October.
In December 1681, a fellow witness and procurer of witnesses, Owen Murphy, alleged that in the preceding January Edmund Murphy and others had agreed to testify against Ormond, York and the queen. A little later, an informer called Eustace Comyn claimed that Edmund Murphy had been open to bribes to save Plunkett from execution. In May 1682 Murphy was examined in London and committed to Newgate for some months. In August he was reported to be working on a farm in Kent, but it was not until 27 September 1682 that he was finally removed from the official payroll. Nothing is known of his subsequent career. An edition of his pamphlet, edited by L. P. Murray, was published in the journal of the Louth Archaeological Society (1931).