Murray, Daniel (1768–1852), archbishop of Dublin, was born 18 April 1768 near Arklow, Co. Wicklow, fourth son of Thomas Murray, a prosperous tenant of Lord Wicklow, and Judith Murray. Baptised in Redross chapel, he received his early education locally. In about 1776 he was sent to Dublin, where he was enrolled in Dr Thomas Betagh's (qv) classical school in Saul's Court. He went to Salamanca in 1784, was ordained priest in 1790, and completed a doctorate in theology in 1792. On returning to Ireland he took up an appointment in St Paul's, Arran Quay (1793), and swore the oath of allegiance to George III. In 1795–6 he served as assistant to the Rev. William Ryan in Arklow. Ryan was murdered in 1798; in the same year, Murray himself narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Antrim Militia. At about this time he swore before the Rev. Bailey, rector in Arklow, that he had not taken the United Irishman oath. His aversion to violence was real and lifelong.
In Dublin he was made curate in St Andrew's, Townsend St., and later (1800) he became curate in St Mary's, Liffey St. In 1805 he was made a member of the diocesan chapter and canon of Wicklow. Later he was appointed parish priest of Clontarf. In 1809 he was consecrated coadjutor to Archbishop John Thomas Troy (qv) at Liffey St. chapel with the title ‘archbishop of Hierapolis’. Gradually he took over the running of the Dublin archdiocese. Rome came to rely on him for information on Ireland, England, and the colonies. He was briefly (1812–13) president of Maynooth College, where, assisted by Peter Kenney (qv), he exercised a stabilising influence. Unlike his superior Troy, Murray was adverse to the government veto on Irish episcopal appointments. His opposition endeared him to Daniel O'Connell (qv).
After Troy's death in 1823, Murray became archbishop of Dublin. He worked well with his priests and with successive lords lieutenant. O'Connell feared that he was over-trusting in his dealings with the government. Certainly there is no doubting Murray's respect for legally established authority. He steered clear of direct political involvement and discouraged political activity among his priests. Anxious to avoid giving offence to the protestant establishment, he refused an imposing site for the new pro-cathedral and discouraged displays of catholic triumphalism. But he was also capable of holding positions less to the government's liking. His hostility to the veto in the 1810s was thoroughgoing. He was actively involved in the emancipation campaign. Indeed, the final outcome in 1829 was something of a triumph for him and marks the high point of his influence nationally. However, when he judged it to be to the catholic community's benefit, he was willing to cooperate with the government. This was especially the case in primary education. From the beginning of his episcopate he worked to establish a comprehensive primary education system in the diocese. By 1826 he had established an Education Society in the diocese. When the board of commissioners for national education was established in 1831, Murray was one of its most active members. Despite the opposition of some of his episcopal colleagues, Murray continued to cooperate with the government on the national schools and worked hard to convince Rome of the rightness of his position. This drove a wedge between him and some of his episcopal colleagues. The dispute permanently soured his relations with John MacHale (qv), and from this time Murray's influence on the national level tended to wane.
This decline continued during the repeal controversy in the 1840s. Murray realised that the moral-force argument, on which the repeal movement rested, depended for success on British government tolerance and flexibility. He shrewdly recognised that these were exhausted in the mid 1840s. At the price of sacrificing further his popular support, he opposed the repeal movement. His decision to accept the charitable bequests act of 1844, as the best deal catholics were likely to get in the circumstances, further eroded his popular support but demonstrated his sound political judgement and his concern for the long-term financial stability of the church. In 1848, aware that some of his clergy were becoming politically involved, he reissued decrees forbidding such activity. His action probably helped defuse some of the revolutionary tensions in the country. On the queen's colleges issue he showed firmness and tenacity in supporting the government, but his position led to deep rifts between himself and his archiepiscopal colleagues, including the new primate and papal delegate, Paul Cullen (qv). The root of all these disagreements was Murray's readiness for strategic compromise in order to work with the government. He enjoyed the respect of successive administrations and was offered a seat on the Irish privy council (1846). However, as the catholic church grew stronger and the national question gained prominence, Murray's cautious political strategy tended to fall out of favour with the rising generation of clergy and politicians.
From a pastoral viewpoint, his was a significant episcopate and his policies ensured that Ireland participated fully in the European post-revolutionary catholic revival. Indeed, Murray helped lay the foundations for the extraordinary national and international flowering of Irish catholicism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He had a deep concern for adequate health and education provision. Already in the 1810s he had become involved not only in the establishment of new institutions but in the formation of properly trained personnel. In pursuit of these ends he supported practical religious ventures in education and health care. In 1812 he persuaded Edmund Rice (qv) to establish the Christian Brothers in Dublin, to look after the education of poorer boys. By encouraging the Jesuits, he saw to the education of the better-off. From 1832 he supported the founding of the Irish Vincentian Fathers and their educational venture at Usher's Quay. As early as 1812 he had asked Mary Aikenhead (qv) to establish the Sisters of Charity to cater for the poor. Later he encouraged Frances Ball (qv) to provide for the education of better-off catholic women. In 1824 he supported Catherine McAuley (qv) in founding the Irish Sisters of Mercy. His 1832 pastoral letter First appearance of cholera is a revealing insight into his thinking on health care and poor relief. He helped introduce the Society of St Vincent de Paul in 1844. During the famine, the esteem he enjoyed made him the natural focus for the flood of famine relief pouring into the country from abroad.
From the point of view of religious practice, Murray encouraged the devotional modernisation already sweeping the Continent. He promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary. In 1838 he established the first Irish branch of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith and assisted Fr John Hand (qv) in founding All Hallows College. He was also active in the reorganisation of the ecclesiastical province. Four separate diocesan synods were held to draw up statutes for the Dublin province. These became models for church reorganisation in the rest of the country. By 1852 he had overseen the building of nearly 100 new churches in the archdiocese, and there were over 200 schools acceptable to catholics.
Murray's cautious political attitude was shaped by the first French revolution and the rebellion of 1798, both of which made a deep negative impression on him. He was suspicious of popular movements. His political conservatism is probably best explained by the fact that he was more devoted to the catholic church and its welfare than to any particular political creed. His late-eighteenth-century mind had little understanding of or sympathy for nascent catholic nationalism. He died on 26 February 1852 and was buried in the pro-cathedral in Dublin, where a monument by Thomas Farrell (qv) was later erected. His episcopal papers are in the Dublin diocesan archives. A good likeness is hung in the professors' dining-room, St Patrick's College, Maynooth.