Mael Isu O’Carroll

Mael Isu O’Carroll was a close relative of Murrough O’Carroll, King of Oriel, probably a first cousin. Because of his close relationship with the royal house of Oriel, he was probably fairly typical of the many aristocratic bishops in Europe at that time. He became Bishop of Oriel in 1178 A.D. upon the retirement of Bishop Edan O’Kelly who went to reside in St. Mary’s Abbey, Louth, where he died in 1182.

Mael Isu O’Carroll had ambitions to be Archbishop of Armagh and in 1180 the Archbishopic became vacant. The Bishop of Elphin Tomaltach O’Connor, a close relative of the High King Rory O’Connor was granted the position. Murrough O’Carroll and Henry II of England were unhappy at this appointment and Mael Isu O’Carroll went to England in 1181/2 to persuade Henry for his support to have himself appointed as Archbishop. While in England he met Gilbert Pipard who at that time was Sheriff of Chester and who would soon be granted land in Oriel.

Mael Isu O’Carroll succeeded in having Tomaltach O’Connor removed and himself declared as Archbishop in 1184, but this arrangement only lasted for one year and Tomaltach O’Connor recovered his position. Mael Isu again became Bishop of Oriel and ruled from the Episcopal City of Louth. However, he was not satisfied with this position and in 1186 he set out for Rome to seek the support of the Pope for his claim of Armagh. He died in 1187 while returning from Rome.

Despite Mael Isu O’Carroll’s political ambitions he was also a dedicated Churchman. The Register of Clogher records how after consecrating the Monastery of St. Mary’s in Clogher, an Augustinian house, he presented it with a Chasuble and Mitre from his own personal resources.

In 1179 he was present at a synod in Clonfert called by the Papal Legate and Archbishop of Dublin Lorcan O’Tool. Archbishop O’Tool died the following year in the Normandy town of Eu where to this day his is fondly remembered and it was Mael Isu who co-ordinated efforts to promote his canonisation.