Flood, Peter (c.1742–1803), priest and president of Maynooth College, was born in Co. Longford; there are no details of his early life. He went to France, where he studied for the priesthood. After ordination, he entered the Irish Collège des Lombards, Paris, in 1772, where he became lifelong friends with Patrick Joseph Plunket (qv), who later became bishop of Meath. He graduated DD from the Sorbonne. In 1779 he was appointed provisor (bursar) of the Collège des Lombards, and superior in 1782. In 1788 he became regius professor of moral theology at the Collège de Navarre. He established a formidable reputation as a theologian, and was described as the ‘finest scripturist and casuist in France’.
In 1791 he refused to take the oath for the civil constitution of the clergy, and the following year was relieved of his academic position by the revolutionary government. He narrowly escaped death during the ‘September massacres’ in 1792, and was rescued, along with a fellow Irish priest, Fr Corboy, from an armed mob by two municipal officers. Applying to the national assembly for permission to return to Ireland, he was refused leave and imprisoned. Released soon after, he returned to his native Co. Longford, and was appointed parish priest of Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, in 1795. In June 1795 he was offered, but declined, the chair of moral theology at Maynooth College. Nevertheless, because of his academic credentials, he was elected the second president of the college on 29 January 1798.
He was a reluctant president, his tenure was a difficult one, and his problems were intensified by the outbreak of rebellion in the summer. He was a vehement opponent of the violence, and supported the government throughout. Construction work on the college was halted by the rebellion, creating further difficulties. A number of students had been expelled from the college before the outbreak of the rebellion, and Flood supported the catholic hierarchy in refusing to allow them to return. After the battle of Vinegar Hill, he wrote to Plunket (24 June 1798) relieved to report government assurances that the college would not lose its grant. He continued to be a loyal supporter of government, and backed the administration in its attempts to pass the act of union in 1799 and 1800. On 15 December 1799 he wrote a pamphlet, published the following year, which defended Maynooth from charges made by the protestant reactionary, Patrick Duigenan (qv).
With his sight and strength failing, he was unable to handle the many pressures and tensions involved in running the college; he struggled to maintain discipline, and the burden was often too much for his ailing health. He died on 26 January 1803, and was buried in the north aisle of the Old College Chapel, Maynooth.