O'Connor, Father Dominic (1883–1935), Capuchin priest and republican, was born John Francis O'Connor on 13 February 1883 in Cork city, one of six sons and six daughters of John O'Connor, a teacher, and Mary Ann O'Connor (née Sheehan). Both parents were members of the Franciscan third (lay) order, and eleven of their children bore the name 'Francis' or a variant thereof; three of the sons became catholic priests, and three of the daughters became nuns. A maternal uncle of young John was a Capuchin priest, Father Luke Sheehan, and was among the order's first missionaries sent to a newly established diocese in the US state of Oregon (early 1900s).
Young John was taught by the Christian Brothers on Sullivan's Quay, and completed his secondary education in the Seraphic College, the Capuchin feeder school, in Rochestown, outside Cork city; his tutors included an older contemporary, Albert Bibby (qv), then in his post-novitiate formation. On entering the Capuchin novitiate in Kilkenny town (1899), O'Connor assumed the name in religion of Dominic. He studied at the catholic university of Louvain, Belgium, taking a bachelor's degree in sacred theology and publishing a study of Francis Nugent (qv), seventeenth-century founder of the Irish Capuchin mission. O'Connor was ordained a priest at the Kilkenny friary in 1906. In addition to preaching, giving missions, and fulfilling the sacramental duties of his priestly ministry, he conducted historical research in Ireland, north-east France and Belgium for the papal commission on the beatification of the Irish martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
During the first world war O'Connor volunteered for chaplaincy service in the British military, and for the better part of two years was attached to the 10th (Irish) Division in Macedonia as chaplain to several regiments (1916–17). On his resignation and return to Ireland, he was assigned to the Capuchin's Holy Trinity friary in Cork city, where in 1918 he became active in organising opposition to the proposed imposition in Ireland of military conscription. Beginning in 1919 he ministered to local IRA volunteers in the war of independence, becoming the effective chaplain to the Cork No. 1 Brigade, concentrated on the city and commanded by Tomás MacCurtain (qv). When MacCurtain, after his election as lord mayor of Cork (January 1920), revived the civic chaplaincy (in abeyance for over thirty years), he appointed O'Connor as chaplain to the lord mayor. The first person to appear on the scene after MacCurtain's assassination by RIC men in his bedroom in the early hours of 20 March, O'Connor anointed the body and gave succour to the bereaved widow. He issued a manifesto counselling the citizenry to maintain calm and refrain from reprisals. Retained as chaplain by the new Sinn Féin lord mayor, Terence MacSwiney (qv), O'Connor travelled to London on the day after MacSwiney's conviction in August 1920 and ministered to MacSwiney during his hunger strike in Brixton jail, celebrating mass for him every morning, and writing his dictated messages. He was present at MacSwiney's death on the seventy-fourth day of the hunger strike (25 October).
Subjected to death threats on returning to Cork, and exhausted by weeks of nervous strain, O'Connor was permitted by the Capuchin provincial to spend time in Kilkenny and Dublin transcribing his and others' research regarding the Irish martyrs. He described the events of 'bloody Sunday' (21 November) in a letter to a London friend, which was intercepted in the post, leading to O'Connor's arrest by security forces during a night raid on the Capuchin friary on Church Street, Dublin (16–17 December). After a week's detention in Dublin Castle, where he was subjected to psychological torture (insults, taunts and threatened summary execution), he was transferred to solitary confinement in Kilmainham jail. Court-martialled on 8 January 1921 on charges related to written material likely to cause disaffection to the crown (the letter to the London friend and a memorandum book containing depositions taken from MacSwiney in prison), he was sentenced on 29 January to three years' penal servitude. Imprisoned briefly in Wormwood Scrubs prison, London, he was transferred to Parkhurst prison, Isle of Wight, where he was subject to the ordinary convict regime regarding diet, labour and dress (though his hair and beard were not cut). After a republican prisoners' work strike and intervention by Bishop Peter Amigo of Southwark, he was allowed first to celebrate Sunday mass, and then daily mass.
Released in a general amnesty in January 1922 pursuant to ratification by Dáil Éireann of the Anglo–Irish treaty, he was granted the freedom of Cork (25 February) for his services to MacCurtain and MacSwiney. With his Capuchin confrère Father Albert Bibby, he afforded spiritual ministry to the garrison of anti-treatyites who seized the Four Courts, Dublin, close to the Church Street friary. During the three-day bombardment and siege by Free State forces (28–30 June 1922), the two friars helped evacuate the wounded to hospital and finally to facilitate the garrison's surrender. Thereupon they ministered to the new anti-treatyite headquarters garrison in the Hammam Hotel, an act castigated by the Free State government as an abuse of the free movement and privileged immunity granted them; an official complaint to Archbishop Edward Byrne (qv) of Dublin also accused O'Connor of transmitting information to anti-treaty leaders.
O'Connor ministered to both sides in the Wicklow mountains and to the anti-treaty forces that briefly held Blessington. Like many other Capuchins, he continued to offer spiritual ministry to anti-treatyite republicans even after the catholic bishops' pastoral letter (10 October) interdicting reception of the sacraments by the 'irregulars' and their supporters; he may have been more visible than others in his defiance of the interdict. On returning to his Cork friary, he was refused renewal of his canonical faculties by Bishop Daniel Cohalan (qv) until he resumed theological studies and submitted to examination thereon. In this context, O'Connor was transferred in November 1922 by the order's provincial to the Irish Capuchin mission in Oregon, USA (where his uncle Father Luke Sheehan was still active). Serving in the order's houses in Bend and Hermiston, after being loaned for a year as temporary rector of St Francis de Sales cathedral, Baker City, in 1931 he was appointed superior of St Mary of the Angels friary in Hermiston. He wrote a brief history of the diocese of Baker City. While attending a Marian congress in Portland, he sustained serious injuries in a motor accident, was hospitalised for several weeks, and never fully recovered. He died 17 October 1935 in the Hermiston friary, Oregon.
Of sturdy build and erect carriage, with long flowing beard, Father Dominic was a practical man of action, with great moral and physical courage, and mind and habits disciplined with a military-like precision. He was given to frequent citation of the Old Testament books of Maccabees as justification of armed insurrection to secure religious and political liberty, and maintained that violence done toward such an end was not only not sinful but meritorious. In June 1958 his remains, and those of Father Albert, who had died in California, were repatriated to Ireland, and reinterred at Rochestown, Co. Cork.