O'Hurley, Dermot (c.1530–1584), catholic archbishop of Cashel and martyr, was the son of William O'Hurley, a servant to the Fitzgerald earls of Desmond, and his wife Honora O'Brien. He was born near Emly, Co. Tipperary, but his family later moved to Lickadoon, Co. Limerick. Little is known of his early education in Ireland, though he may have attended the cathedral school at Emly. He continued his education at the university at Louvain, where in 1551 he graduated MA from the Collège du Lis and, having won renown for his commentaries on Aristotle, was appointed professor of philosophy at the college in 1559. He also became a doctor of civil and canon law, and dean of the College of St Ivo; he probably left Louvain about 1564. He then spent four years as professor of law at Rheims university, before moving to Rome c.1568, where he may have continued his academic career. Claims that he was a member of the holy office (the inquisition) while in Rome come from partisan sources; at most he may have given occasional legal advice. During his time at Rome, he urged the papacy to support an invasion of Ireland to end the persecution suffered by catholics there, and in 1581 acted as interpreter for a representative in Rome of the rebel leader James Eustace (qv), Viscount Baltinglass.
In 1581 Pope Gregory XIII decided to appoint O'Hurley to the archdiocese of Cashel, though he was still a layman. Gregory issued a papal brief in his favour on 15 July, and O'Hurley received the clerical tonsure and was advanced to the four minor orders and three major orders by Thomas Goldwell, bishop of St Asaph, within the space of sixteen days: he received the tonsure on 29 July, and was made ostiary, lector, and exorcist on 30 July, acolyte on 1 August, subdeacon on 6 August, deacon on 10 August, and priest on 13 August. He was provided to the archdiocese of Cashel on 11 September at the secret consistory, and was granted the pallium in person on 27 November 1581. His appointment was due to his family's closeness to the earls of Desmond, the 15th earl, Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), being then in rebellion against the crown. O'Hurley was commissioned to take papal letters to Desmond encouraging him to remain steadfast in his rebellion.
After leaving Rome in summer 1582, O'Hurley reached Rheims in August, where he fell seriously ill; he was not well enough to finish his journey home until August 1583. At the port of Le Croisic at the mouth of the Loire, he gained passage to Holmpatrick, near Skerries, Co. Dublin. He sent a bundle of documents and with them his pallium to Ireland by a different ship, which was intercepted by the authorities. On his arrival in Ireland in the summer of 1583 he was met by Father John Dillon, who took him first to Drogheda, where they feared they had been discovered by a government informer. They hastened to Slane castle where Dillon's relative, Thomas Fleming, Baron Slane, provided sanctuary for them. O'Hurley hid for a time in a secret chamber at Slane castle; he ventured out from Slane to Cavan to visit some priests he had known from his time on the continent. Sir Robert Dillon (qv), chief justice of the common pleas, on a visit to his cousin for dinner, spoke with O'Hurley, who posed as a guest. Dillon's suspicions were aroused by O'Hurley's learned manner and, after making further inquiries, he uncovered the archbishop's true identity.
By that time, however, O'Hurley had travelled to Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, where he met Thomas Butler (qv), 10th earl of Ormond. O'Hurley's arrival in his lordship put Ormond in a difficult position. Although a protestant, all of his family, tenants, and supporters were catholic and he allowed them the freedom to worship according to their religion. However, royal officials in Dublin, long jealous of his favour with the queen, watched Ormond closely, eagerly awaiting the chance to expose his covert support for catholicism. Ormond appears to have agreed to protect O'Hurley as long as he avoided meddling in political affairs and stayed in Co. Tipperary. After this meeting O'Hurley visited the site of Holy Cross abbey. He wrote to the Church of Ireland archbishop of Cashel, Miler Magrath (qv), on 20 September 1583, suggesting that they tolerate each other's activities in their competing jurisdiction. However, Ormond, to whom O'Hurley had entrusted the delivery of the letter, retained it as he distrusted Magrath (it is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Carte 55, fol. 546).
In the meantime, Baron Slane had been summoned before the lords justices in Dublin, where he was berated for sheltering a catholic archbishop and ordered to apprehend O'Hurley. Slane hurried to Carrick, where he and Ormond concluded that O'Hurley had to be sacrificed: it is uncertain whether Ormond and Slane betrayed O'Hurley to the authorities or merely persuaded him to surrender himself. If O'Hurley went willingly, it suggests that he overestimated Ormond's ability to protect him and underestimated the ruthlessness and anti-catholic zeal of the authorities. In the event he was led in chains to Dublin by Slane and imprisoned at Dublin castle on 7 October.
He was interrogated by Edward Waterhouse (qv), a member of the Irish council, between 8 and 20 October 1583; he admitted having met in Rome Richard Eustace, brother of the rebel Viscount Baltinglass, but denied bringing letters to Desmond and other rebels. The lords justices, Adam Loftus (qv), Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin, and Henry Wallop (qv), vice-treasurer of Ireland, then sent to Whitehall for instructions and were told on 10 December to use torture. They were reluctant to do so, knowing that it would quickly become public knowledge in Ireland, and requested that he be tortured in London instead. After receiving further orders from London, they put O'Hurley to torture around the beginning of March 1584, dressing his feet in boots containing boiling oil and tallow and placing them over a fire, with the result that the flesh came away from the bones. The ordeal nearly killed him. O'Hurley displayed great strength of will by refusing to divulge any information or to incriminate Ormond despite being urged to do so. He was then offered high ecclesiastical office in the Church of Ireland in return for renouncing his faith, but remained unyielding.
On 8 March 1584 guards discovered letters written by O'Hurley from prison to Ormond and a relative. At this point the lords justices became very agitated and requested permission to execute O'Hurley by martial law, believing that he would be acquitted if he were tried by common law. Ormond was then at the royal court and they feared that O'Hurley would alert Ormond to their efforts to implicate him in treason. On 28 April they received instructions from Thomas Walsingham, secretary of state to Elizabeth, tacitly authorising them to try O'Hurley by martial law. However, they delayed, knowing that the execution would be controversial. They waited until Sir John Perrot (qv) arrived in Dublin in June to take up the lord deputyship of Ireland and, having secured his approval, sentenced O'Hurley to death by martial law on 19 June. He was hanged at Hoggins Green the next day; the execution was carried out in the early hours of the morning to avoid attention, but a group of archers happened to be practising on the green, thwarting the authorities’ efforts to suppress reports of the martyrdom. O'Hurley's remains were recovered by citizens of Dublin and interred at St Kevin's church, while his clothes were kept as relics. In a very short time he was acclaimed throughout Ireland as a martyr for his faith, and his burial place became a shrine for Dublin catholics. Archbishop O'Hurley, along with sixteen other Irish martyrs, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 September 1992.