Rev. James Maher: Poor Law Critic

Rev. Fr. James Maher was another Carlow person who was prominent in the cause of the poor. His letters are an important source for the political and social issues of his day. They were collected and published after his death by his grandnephew Patrick Francis Moran (later Cardinal Moran (1830-1911)).

Fr. James Maher was born at Donore, Co. Carlow in May 1793. He was the son of a farmer. He attended the Quaker School in Ballitore. In 1808, he entered Carlow College as a lay student and remained there for eight years. He completed his clerical studies in Rome and was ordained there in September 1821. During the early years of his priesthood, he resided with J.K.L. at Old Derrig near Carlow.
In the 1830's it was people like Fr. Maher and Bishop Doyle who were increasingly influential in the cause of Catholics and the poor. Fr. Maher, like J.K.L, objected to the fact that Catholics had to contribute to the upkeep of the established church. He criticised government policy because workhouses were considered a pretext for refusing to grant relief. He condemned the Poor Law as being "a structure kept up more for a staff of officials" rather than for the relief of the poor.

Fr. Maher was appointed Parish Priest of Graiguecullen in 1841 and remained there for over thirty years until his death in 1874.

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