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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Members of the Fourth Dáil - Alfred O'Rahilly

Alfred O'Rahilly (1884–1969) was a noted academic, President of University College Cork and Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork City.

Born in Listowel, County Kerry and educated at St. Michael's College in Listowel, and at Blackrock College in Dublin, O'Rahilly went on to third level education at University College Cork, where he completed an MA and PhD.

He was appointed assistant lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Physics in 1914, and made full Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1917. He became Registrar of the college in 1920, and held the post until 1943 when he became President of the University.
O'Rahilly founded the Cork University Press in 1931.

After the 1916 Rising O'Rahilly publicly supported Sinn Féin and was elected to Cork City Council as a Sinn Féin and Transport Workers candidate. Arrested early in 1921 for political writings, O'Rahilly was interned on Spike Island Prison Colony.

Released in October, 1921 he was constitutional adviser to the Irish Treaty Delegation. O'Rahilly supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and in 1922 he composed a draft constitution for the Irish Free State with Edmund Darrell Figgis.

O'Rahilly lead Irish delegations to the International Labour Organisation Conferences in 1924, 1925 and 1932, and took on conciliatory role in trade union and employers disputes in Munster. Standing as a candidate in Cork Borough for Cumann na nGaedhael, he was elected to the 4th Dáil in 1923. He stood down in 1924, causing a by-election which was won by the Cumann na nGaedheal candidate Michael Egan.

A deeply religious Catholic from early life, O'Rahilly was a member of the Society of Jesus but left before ordination and was dispensed from his vows. He maintained his (sometimes controversial) religious views throughout his life, and became a priest, and then Monsignor, in later years following the death of his wife. He wrote a biography of Fr. Willie Doyle SJ - which was subsequently translated into other languages.

He was also an advisor on university education to the Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid and sat on an informal committee from 1950. The committee included O'Rahilly, and the other presidents of the National University of Ireland; Michael Tierney of UCD, Monsignor Pádraig de Brún, Cardinal D'Alton, and Bishops Cornelius Lucey of Cork and Michael Browne of Galway.

O'Rahilly wrote a major survey of electromagnetic theory, Electromagnetics. He opposed Maxwell's dominant (British) theory of the electromagnetic field and followed the French Catholic physicist, historian of science, and philosopher of science Pierre Duhem in rejecting Maxwell's field account. As a logical consequence of his rejection of Maxwell, O'Rahilly also rejected Einstein's theory. O'Rahilly embraced Ritz's ballistic theory of light. O'Rahilly also wrote against the theory of evolution.

Because O'Rahilly thought Cork lacked a social science curriculum he volunteered to teach courses in economics and sociology. When told that they could not spare him from the physics courses, he volunteered to teach an economics course and sociology course along with his physics courses.

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