O'Gallagher, Redmond (c.1521–1601), catholic bishop of Derry, was born about 1521, near Lifford according to a later tradition. His father, Giolla Dubh, was a leading member of the O'Gallagher sept in Tyrconnell, and Redmond was a nephew of Manus O'Donnell (qv), lord of Tyrconnell (1537–55). Almost certainly it was Manus's patronage that caused Redmond, who had not attained the canonical age for ordination at the time, to be provided as administrator of the diocese of Killala with the right to succeed the late Bishop Richard Barrett on 6 November 1545. Manus O'Donnell had only recently extended his political sway over northern Connacht.
Details of O'Gallagher's episcopate in Killala are scant. It is known that in the reign of Edward VI he alienated some of Killala's see lands to a brother-in-law. Given his dependence on the political patronage of the O'Donnells, though, he may have had little choice in the matter. In 1556 Bishop O'Gallagher, standing in for the irregularly appointed Archbishop Christopher Bodkin (qv), presided over a provincial synod of the catholic clergy of the ecclesiastical province of Tuam which promulgated some reforming decrees. Nothing more is known, however, of O'Gallagher's work in Connacht.
O'Gallagher's episcopate in Killala was cut short dramatically when he fled the diocese and took refuge in Portugal. According to the Jesuit David Wolfe (qv), O'Gallagher would have been imprisoned or killed if he had stayed in his diocese. According to a seventeenth-century account, O'Gallagher's flight was necessitated by the fact that the local lord, Shane mac Oliver, the Mac William Burke, was upset at the bishop's undue familiarity with his wife. That may well be the case, though the death of An Calbhach O'Donnell (qv), lord of Tyrconnell, in 1566 may well have left O'Gallagher, an O'Donnell placeman, exposed to a politically inspired purge. In any event, Bishop O'Gallagher spent some time in Lisbon before 22 June 1569 when he was translated to the see of Derry. He was allowed to hold the revenues of the Augustinian priory at Aughris in Killala diocese in commendam to supplement the modest income afforded by the diocese of Derry.
The state papers record in 1571 that O'Gallagher had recently landed in Ireland with several papal faculties. On 13 April 1573 he received a faculty to act as the vice-primate while Archbishop Richard Creagh (qv) was in prison. He remained the vice-primate of the Irish church – with the exception of the term of office (1587–93) of Archbishop Edmund Magauran (qv) – until his death. In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII wrote to O'Gallagher directing him to oversee the implementation of the tridentine decrees concerning episcopal visitations and the training of priests, as well as decrees concerning the promotion of men born outside marriage to priests’ orders and to benefices. O'Gallagher's efforts brought him to the attention of English officials in Dublin.
By the early 1580s there was increasing English involvement in Ulster. Bishop O'Gallagher was one of those clergymen who reckoned that the catholic faith could not be preserved indefinitely in the face of English imperialism. On 28 January 1586 Lord Deputy John Perrot (qv) and the council of Ireland informed the English privy council that O'Gallagher was the ‘chief instrument’ in a conspiracy to secure Spanish intervention in Ireland, and they reported that the bishop had travelled overseas again with that intent. The provincial synod of the northern province of the Irish church, over which O'Gallagher presided in 1587, promulgated the decrees of the Council of Trent, perhaps to convince Philip II of their catholic credentials ahead of the anticipated Spanish armada.
In the event, the Spanish armada was not intended for Ireland, though it was forced on its journey home to sail past the north and west coasts of Ireland in stormy conditions – with terrible consequences. The contemporary accounts are somewhat confused, but it seems clear that Bishop O'Gallagher gave succour to Spaniards whose ship, or ships, had sunk off the Ulster coast. Among the refugees was Captain Francesco de Cuellar, who described the bishop as a true Christian. According to a reliable source Bishop O'Gallagher was in the company of Hugh O'Neill (qv), earl of Tyrone, at Strabane in late October 1588 and intended to board a ship sent to Ulster to rescue hundreds of Spanish survivors. One may presume that O'Gallagher planned to meet Philip II. Hugh O'Neill's support for O'Gallagher's mission may reasonably be inferred from their meeting at Strabane, however much the earl dissembled about his intentions at that time. The looked-for Spanish support, though, never materialised, and the bishop returned to Ireland to continue with his pastoral ministry.
Miler Magrath (qv), the Elizabethan archbishop of Cashel, reported in 1590 that Bishop O'Gallagher was exercising spiritual jurisdiction across Ulster, consecrating churches, ordaining priests and confirming children. Catholic rites were in use throughout the province, and even the new Gregorian calendar had been adopted there. In 1593 O'Gallagher was one of the Ulster bishops and several secular lords who wrote to Philip II beseeching him for military aid against the heretical English. When Spanish envoys landed at Killybegs with letters for O'Neill from Philip II the earl was accompanied by Henry Hovenden, his secretary and foster-brother, and by Bishop O'Gallagher. The bishop was identified by English crown officials as one of Hugh O'Neill's chief advisers.
However, in May 1600 Sir Henry Docwra (qv), at the head of a large English army, occupied Derry. Bishop O'Gallagher took refuge in O'Cahan's lordship east of the Foyle. It was there, at Cumber, on 7 March 1601 (Gregorian calendar) that the bishop was accosted by English soldiers and was killed, along with eighty men, women and children, according to their commander, Sir John Bowles.
Bishop O'Gallagher is significant as a leading figure of the counter-reformation in Ireland. One tangible legacy of his ministry survives: the ruins of a chapel he built on the Waterside opposite Derry.