Coffey, Peter (1876–1943), priest and professor ofphilosophy, was born 27 April 1876 in Rathrone, Enfield, Co. Meath, son of Andrew Coffey, farmer, and Bridget Coffey (née Cosgrove). Educated at the model school, Trim, the diocesan seminary, Navan, and St Patrick's College, Maynooth, he was ordained a priest for the Meath diocese (1900). Having consistently excelled academically, he proceeded to further study at the Dunboyne Establishment and Louvain, where he obtained a Ph.D. (1905). A rapid rise saw him appointed professor of logic and general metaphysics at Maynooth (1902). He wrote several respected philosophical textbooks, The science of logic(2 vols, 1912), Ontology (1914), and Epistemology (2 vols, 1917), translated Maurice de Wulf's Scholasticism old and new (1909) and History of medieval philosophy (1910), and contributed to the Catholic encyclopaedia, Irish Theological Quarterly, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, and Catholic Bulletin.
He was nationalist in outlook and committed to the language movement. When in 1903 Eugene O'Growney's (qv) body was brought from Los Angeles to be reinterred in Maynooth, Coffey (as a representative of the college) was among those who received it. In 1909 he gave evidence in support of his colleague Michael O'Hickey (qv), whose dismissal after a public dispute over the issue of compulsory Irish precipitated a papal inquiry. Coffey displayed a willingness to court publicity and controversy throughout his career. He wrote numerous earnest pamphlets and articles on social issues. An adherent of what was sometimes called Christian socialism, he argued that Connolly's writings were compatible with catholic teaching. This led him into conflict with the ecclesiastical censor, who refused to allow to him publish his tracts ‘The financing of industry’ and ‘The labour question’. His failure to become professor of ethics in Maynooth in 1929 has been attributed to these clashes with authority. Pamphlets concentrating on the papal encyclicals Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno, entitled Between capitalism and socialism and The social question in Ireland, were published by the Irish Messenger in 1930.
The first president of the Catholic Total Abstinence Federation of Ireland and president of the Father Mathew Union, he was well known as an advocate of the temperance movement. The Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, on whose management committee he served, published several of his booklets promoting temperance, and he gave evidence before the intoxicating liquor commission of 1925. He died 7 January 1943 in Maynooth, leaving an estate worth £2,029.