‘Second Reformation’ symposium and exhibition launch, 

Maynooth University Library, Monday 24 October 2022  

A symposium focusing on one of the most disruptive periods in nineteenth-century Ireland is being held in the John Paul II Library on Monday 24 October, in conjunction with a new exhibition to be launched in the Russell Library, Maynooth University the same day. ‘The Second Reformation and Catholic–Protestant Relations in Pre-Famine Ireland: A Bicentennial Perspective’ brings together scholars of the ‘Protestant Crusade’ and nineteenth-century Ireland, together with an accompanying exhibition including unique holdings from the Russell Library, to explore a period from the 1820s to 1840s when sectarian hatred, suspicion and rivalries dominated the public sphere, on both national and local levels. The full symposium programme is outlined below.

The exhibition, jointly curated by Dr Ciarán McCabe (Queen’s University Belfast) and Alexandra Caccamo (Maynooth University Library), and comprises materials from the university’s library holdings pertaining to the ‘Second Reformation’, which was a sustained and renewed effort by Protestant missionaries — mostly members of the Church of Ireland, but also including Presbyterians and Methodists — to turn Irish Catholics away from “Romish errors and superstitions” and towards “true religion”. Exhibition panels inform the visitor of the background to the Second Reformation; the significance of Magee’s sermon, and Catholic and Protestant responses to it; the emergence of the Bible War of the mid-1820s; the significance of a vibrant print culture in fomenting discord and religious controversy; the role of landlords in promoting evangelical missions on their estates; and a case study of a bitter schism in Birr, County Offaly, where two Catholic priests and hundreds of their congregants converted to Protestantism. The exhibition’s display cases contain materials from the Russell Library’s extensive pamphlet collection and represent the arguments and viewpoints of both sides in this prolonged period of acute interdenominational discord. Particular highlights include an Irish-language bible (typed in Roman and Gaelic script) published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1818 for the use of missionaries working amongst the Irish Catholic peasantry.

‘The Second Reformation and Catholic–Protestant Relations in Pre-Famine Ireland: Bicentennial Perspectives’ 

John Paul II Library, Maynooth University, 24 October 2022  

9.30-9.40     Welcome and opening remarks 

Symposium launch by Dr Niamh O’Reilly, Chief of Staff to Maynooth University President 



Panel One: The Second Reformation: origins and historiography 

Chair: Professor Salvador Ryan (St Patrick’s Pontifical University) 


Professor Emerita Irene Whelan (Manhattanville College, New York) 

‘A declaration of religious war’? Archbishop William Magee’s ‘antithetical’ charge of 24 October 1822: context and consequences’ 

Professor Emerita Jacqueline Hill (Maynooth University) 

‘The Reverend William Phelan and his contribution to Irish church history, c.1790–1850’. 


Dr Miriam Moffitt (St Patrick’s Pontifical University) 

‘“Messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord”; how Archbishop Magee’s message to ‘the Clergy of the National Religion’ influenced the writing of Irish religious history’ 


11.00am-11.20am Tea/coffee break 


Panel Two: The Second Reformation and geographic case studies 

Chair: Professor Marian Lyons (Department of History, Maynooth University) 


Dr Ciarán McCabe (Queen’s University Belfast) 

‘Catholic-Protestant relations in pre-Famine Ireland: a case study of Dublin parish vestries’ 

Dr Marion Rogan (Maynooth University) 

‘The Second Reformation in the Kingscourt District, 1822–61’ 

Mr James Frazer (Queen’s University Belfast) 

‘Churchmanship and the Second Reformation: a case study of the 3rd Earl of Roden and his estates’ 

1.00pm-1.30pm    Exhibition launch in Russell Library