O'Queely, Malachy (c.1586–1645), catholic archbishop of Tuam and leading confederate, was born in the barony of Corcomroe, Co. Clare. It has been plausibly surmised that he was the son of Donnogh MacLeagh McGuillpatrick who held 217 acres of land in that barony in 1641. He had at least one brother, Matthew (d. 1629). After early schooling in Ireland he studied both philosophy and theology in Paris. He was awarded a doctorate in theology and taught for a while in the Sorbonne as a professor of philosophy.
He was appointed as dean, protonotary, and vicar apostolic of Killaloe, probably in 1622. His new duties required him to return to Ireland to reside in his native diocese, where, although he had acquired no legally recognisable revenues, he could at least count on substantial local support from kinsfolk and friends. Nevertheless, the posts also carried with them considerable dangers, since the state in Ireland was far more hostile to clerics who exercised a jurisdiction derived from Rome than to ordinary priests. Indeed, it was not uncommon practice for catholic priests to complain to the civil authorities concerning the activities of reforming catholic bishops and vicars apostolic, several of whom were imprisoned as a result. Despite this, from 1622 O'Queely proved an intensely active pastor, even if the many testimonials furnished to Rome in an attempt to have him consecrated as a bishop probably exaggerated the positive impact which he had on the behaviour and morals of the population of the diocese.
His provision as archbishop of Tuam occurred on 12/22 April 1630 and he was consecrated on 10 October of the same year. Although the dioceses were geographically reasonably close to each other, O'Queely was thus forced to move away from the protection of the supportive lay circles that had facilitated his activity in Killaloe. In a fashion similar to other contemporary bishops nominated to sees of which they were not native, such as Eugene MacSweeny, John O'Cullenan, and Thomas Walsh (qv), he encountered some problems in his new position, probably because resentment of his reforming activities was exacerbated by the perception that he was a foreigner to the archdiocese. In 1634 it was reported that he was forced to go into hiding for several months because the state wished to investigate him on the charge of having ordained priests. He was certainly guilty on this score: by 1637 he was already claiming to have ordained forty-five.
As in Killaloe, he proved a very diligent pastor. In 1631 he held a diocesan synod and the following year convened a provincial synod, which enacted a classical programme of tridentine legislation. The decrees also included a sharp prohibition of the practice of taking ecclesiastical cases before the secular courts. They were approved in Rome in 1634, and three years later O'Queely's suffragan, Boetius Egan (qv) of Elphin, reported that they were being observed in his diocese. A further provincial synod was held in 1639.
By 1632 O'Queely claimed, probably exaggeratedly, to have already confirmed 100,000 people. He visited tirelessly, even venturing out to the Aran islands, and remodelled the internal organisation of his diocese by appointing vicars forane to supervise individual deaneries. These were presumably drawn from the cadre of continentally educated clergy at his disposal, and at least twice a year (presumably both for the promotion of solidarity and for educational purposes) the priests of a deanery went into retreat together. O'Queely preached regularly himself and licensed other qualified clergy to do so. Determined to protect his episcopal rights, he also became involved in a long-drawn-out contest of authority with probably the most significant ecclesiastical institution in Connacht, the collegiate church of St Nicholas in Galway. Although he eventually received strong support from Rome, he evidently found it difficult to secure the acceptance of his authority, particularly when his opponents threatened to bring the matter before the state courts.
Following the outbreak of the 1641 rebellion, O'Queely set himself against all manifestations of merely social disorder and worked to channel the uprising into a war for religious liberties. Together with the suffragan bishops of the province of Tuam he made determined but unsuccessful efforts to beguile or force the earl of Clanricard (qv) into joining the confederate catholic association. He was a member of every confederate supreme council until his death in 1645 and rapidly emerged as one of the association's key figures in Connacht. In Rome he was perceived as easily the most active and zealous of the metropolitans, as was indicated by the tone of the brief that he received from Pope Urban VIII in 1644. The following year he was one of the two outstanding members of the hierarchy with whom the new nuncio, Rinuccini (qv), was instructed to consult and liaise. The two men were, however, never to meet. In September 1645 O'Queely left Kilkenny to travel to Connacht to bolster with his presence the confederate forces confronting parties of raiders from the town of Sligo, and on 31 October 1645 was killed in a skirmish. On his dead body were found the details of the negotiations of the earl of Glamorgan (qv) with the confederate catholics, which were subsequently transmitted to London and published there with very great effects.