Darcy, Patrick (1598–1668), lawyer, was seventh son of Sir James Darcy, mayor of Galway at the time of his death (1603), and his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Martin, also of Galway. He entered the Middle Temple in 1617 and five years later commenced practice in London, where he enjoyed the patronage of the 4th earl of Clanricard (qv), whose chief agent in Ireland, Sir Henry Lynch (d. 1634), was his stepfather. He was admitted to the King's Inns in 1628, became a member of Galway town council in 1631, and developed an extensive practice across the religious divide: the earls of Antrim (qv), Ormond (qv), and Cork (qv) were among his clients. He was returned to the 1634 parliament for Navan and established himself at once among the leadership of the Old English group. In the first session, with his wife's brother-in-law, Richard Martin (qv), he undertook responsibility for the main business of formulating legislative proposals based on the Graces of 1628 and urging them upon the government. Darcy seems not to have reacted as intemperately as others when these overtures were rebuffed and the principal Graces denied on 27 November 1634. Lord Deputy Wentworth (qv) conceded that he had ‘carried himself very well’ during the parliament (Wentworth to Sir John Coke, 13 October 1635, Sheffield Central Library, Wentworth Woodhouse MSS, ix). When proceedings were initiated to find the king's title to Connacht in 1635, Darcy and Martin acted as legal advisers to the Galway landowners who contested the crown case. After Wentworth had refused to accept the jury's adverse verdict and fined the sheriff who had impanelled it, Darcy's brother Martin, both brothers were chosen as members of a delegation to appeal to the king. The death of Clanricard deprived the agents of any prospect of success. Darcy disobeyed an order to return to Ireland and became involved in an equally fruitless attempt by the lord deputy's New English opponents to impugn his conduct of the customs farm. On his return to Ireland in May 1636, he was briefly imprisoned and disqualified from the bar till June 1639. In June 1640, when a coalition opposition was taking over control of the commons in the second session of the new parliament, a committee dealing with the Connacht issue was empowered to seek Darcy's advice, and in May 1641 he was returned to the parliament in a by-election for Co. Tyrone. His incongruous return for a plantation county was designed to reinforce the expertise of an opposition that was challenging the legality of a variety of recent governmental practices. A set of queries, specifying these and seeking confirmation that they were ultra vires, had been presented to the judges for their comments and had received evasive answers. Darcy's brief was to provide the correct answers. He did so in a speech addressed to the lords' house on 9 June 1641 that provided the foundation for a series of resolutions adopted by the commons in late July. In these, the house defined the proper relationship of the executive government to the law in a formulation that not only condemned Wentworth's innovations but tacitly denied the authority of the English parliament to legislate for Ireland.
When rebellion broke out in October 1641, Darcy was among those who argued that the prorogued parliament could contribute usefully to restoring peace and demanded that it should be allowed to meet. He left Dublin quietly early in 1642 in order, he later claimed, to live under the protection of the 5th earl of Clanricard (qv), who was attempting to prevent the rebellion from spreading to Co. Galway. With Richard Martin, he soon became involved, and was alleged to have been instrumental in setting up an emergency government for the town, the ‘council of eight’, which disputed control with the governor of Galway fort but dissociated itself from the rebels. Both men were involved in Clanricard's covert moves to promote the orderly establishment of an alternative government of the area in rebel control, and when a national assembly convened in Kilkenny (October), Darcy headed the committee that prepared the confederate ‘model of government’. Thereafter, he acted as de facto lord chancellor and served on eight of the nine successive supreme councils (1642–9). In September 1644 Darcy played a leading part in negotiations with government representatives in Dublin, in the course of which he presented the confederate demands for the suspension of Poynings’ law and the passage of a declaratory act affirming the legislative independence of the Irish parliament. The brief was a difficult one because its merits were political rather than legal, Darcy was uncomfortable with it, and he was worsted in argument by the lord chancellor, Sir Richard Bolton (qv). As divisions emerged over the treaty, he remained committed to a moderate policy. In June 1645, with Nicholas Plunkett (qv) (d. 1680), the assembly chairman, he dissuaded the clerical leadership from insisting on the inclusion of an article requiring the retention of churches in catholic possession, and he was named as one of the commissioners to oversee the treaty's implementation when it was signed on 28 March 1646. On 3 August he signed the declaration accompanying its publication. With Plunkett, he was sent to Waterford to present the supreme council's justification of the peace to the national legatine synod convened by Rinuccini (qv), but failed to prevent the clerical denunciation of the treaty on 12 August. When this was followed on 1 September by a decree excommunicating the supporters of the peace, Darcy and Plunkett changed sides and acquiesced in Rinuccini's overthrow of the supreme council. Although Darcy was not appointed to its successor, he accepted judicial office under the new regime. He returned to government in March 1647, when he was reelected to the supreme council by the new assembly and aligned himself with those who steered a middle course between the peace party and the clerical faction, aiming at renewed negotiation from a position of strength. When this strategy was undermined by a combination of Ormond's (qv) departure, the failure of the Leinster military thrust at Dungan's Hill (August 1647), and the loss of impetus in Munster, Darcy became disillusioned. He withdrew to Galway and offered his support to the peace party leaders (November), bitterly criticising the conduct of O'Neill's Ulster army. In September 1648, when Ormond's return was imminent, he returned to Kilkenny to attend the ninth assembly, resumed his association with the moderates, and participated actively in the political manoeuvring that led to the conclusion on 20 January 1649 of the second Ormond peace, of which he was a signatory. He was appointed to a judgeship by the general assembly convened by Ormond at Loughrea in April 1650.
Darcy was one of those exempted from pardon in the 1652 act for the settling of Ireland and was imprisoned for some time in the early 1650s. Under examination in December 1653, he denied that he had played any part in public affairs before the meeting of the first confederate assembly in October 1642. In 1654, when he borrowed £300 on the statute staple, he was resident in Galway city. His extensive estates, in Mayo and Sligo as well as at Kiltullagh in Galway where he had had his principal residence, were confiscated and a decree was issued in 1656 for his transplantation to Omey, Co. Galway, where he was assigned sixty-six acres. The scale of this award is elucidated by the much larger assignments made to his son and heir James. In 1661 he was among those who petitioned for permission to return to live in Limerick and Galway, and he subsequently resumed private practice. He married (1628) Mary Blake, daughter of Sir Peter French of Galway, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. He died in 1668 and was buried in Kilconnell Abbey.
Darcy's contribution to both parliamentary opposition and confederate ideology was embodied in An argument, delivered on 9 June 1641 and published at Waterford in 1643, in which he reviewed the legal and constitutional objections of the commons to developments in the practice of government under Wentworth. In a programmatic analysis of the constituents of legal authority in Ireland, which he identified as the common law of England and the parliamentary statutes and lawful customs of Ireland, he not merely stripped the prerogative of its discretionary character and subordinated it to the law but excluded English parliamentary authority from Ireland. The essence of his position – that Ireland was a separate kingdom, subject to the same crown as England, but distinct from it – was not novel. However, at a time when the English parliament was assuming royal powers, including the right to rule Ireland, the clarity and force of his statement of the public law relationship between the kingdoms was extremely influential. When it was delivered, the Argument expressed the views of protestant colonists as well as of catholics. During the confederate years, when the acknowledgment of legislative independence was a confederate aim, it validated the claim to be loyal to the crown while fighting in self-defence against parliament. In later years, it was indirectly to become an important source for the case for Irish legislative independence that was controversially stated by William Molyneux (qv) in 1698 and espoused by protestant ‘patriots’ in the eighteenth century, and it was republished in 1764.