The Catholic University of Ireland was formally established on May 18, 1854 to propagate true learning in Irish Catholics with John Henry
Newman installed as Rector, writes Paula Redmond


In 1854 the Catholic University of Ireland was established to provide university education to those of the Catholic faith. The university would later become University College Dublin (UCD).

Following Catholic emancipation in Ireland in 1829, the Catholic Church wished to establish a university. Up until that time, the only universities in Ireland were the long established Trinity College, Dublin (founded 1592) and the colleges which formed the Queen’s University of Ireland (established 1852), namely Queen’s University Belfast, University College Cork and the University of Galway.

The Queen’s University of Ireland was established in an attempt to deal with issues prohibiting catholics from attending university. Catholics were not permitted to attend Trinity College until 1793. Even after this date few catholics attended.

In 1850 a synod (a council of Christian denomination) was held in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. It was decided at the meeting to establish a catholic university in Dublin, something which the Archbishop of Armagh was eager to form. The idea was approved by Pope Pius IX.

The university was formally established on May 18th 1854. There were initially five faculties: law; medicine, philosophy and letters; theology and science. John Henry Newman was appointed Rector. Newman, a catholic priest and later cardinal in the Catholic Church, was originally an Anglican priest. He was a well-renowned academic, theologian and writer.

The first lectures were held in November 1854 with seventeen students registered. The first student was Daniel O’Connell – grandson of his namesake, the politician and ‘Catholic Emancipator’.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own