From the year 1617 the picture is one of gradual consolidation and recovery, despite occasional proclamations and even persecution. By 1622 Galway had the largest Dominican community in the country, with ten friars. They also seem to have recovered their church, which very few other communities managed to do.
There followed a period of extraordinary reversals. Lord Forbes, leader of the parliamentary fleet, arrived at Galway in 1642 to reduce the city, but failed. They turned the Dominican priory on Fairhill into a battery for his guns. Before sailing away again he defaced the church, dug up the graves and even burned the bones and coffins of the dead. On a happier note, the first monastery of Dominican nuns in Ireland was established in Galway in 1644. All present-day houses of Irish Dominican Sisters, at home and abroad, trace their descent directly to this monastery at Galway. In the mid-19th century, the Dominican Sisters moved to their present site n Taylors Hill.
After the fall of Limerick in 1651, Galway became the last outpost of the Confederate army under the leadership of Thomas Preston. As the inevitable siege drew closer, the corporation remembered Lord Forbes and decided to level the Dominican church lest it be used again as a battery against the western walls of the town. A formal agreement with the Dominican community was drawn up and signed by all parties, on the understanding that the corporation would rebuild the church in better times. In 1652 the city capitulated to the Cromwellian army under Sir Charles Coote. The nuns all left Galway for Spain, while most of their Dominican brethren made their way to the continent as best they could.
Among the Galway exiles of this period one can mention three who made their mark in different ways. Dominic Lynch was a theologian, professor and writer at Seville. John O’Connor was more the practical man of affairs, procurator for the Irish province at Madrid, whose greatest achievement was to acquire the twin convents of San Clemente and San Sisto at Rome in 1677. Then there was the missionary, Peter French, who worked in Mexico and learned one of the native languages well enough to write a catechism. Fr French returned to Galway after long years abroad and died in 1693.
Although the corporation of Galway lacked sufficient funds to rebuild the Dominican church as it had agreed to do in 1651, the citizens dug deep into their pockets to make good the loss. St Oliver Plunkett described the new church in 1674 as “the best and most ornamented church in the Kingdom.”
With the accession of James II, a Catholic, in 1685, there was no further need of concealment until his defeat at the Boyne and Limerick in 1691. Two Dominican nuns returned from Spain in 1686 and sisters have been in Galway ever since. The male Dominican community in 1685 numbered twelve priests, five novices and two lay-brothers. Unfortunately this proved but a short period of peace, because in 1698 every bishop and religious in the country was ordered into exile by a parliamentary act of banishment or face death. Even at this juncture, Galway proved unusual among the Dominican houses of Ireland. The community entrusted its goods and valuables to a merchant named Valentine Browne and managed to preserve a detailed inventory of the transaction. The nuns’ cloister had at that time been broken open and they were forced to wear lay clothing, but by a curious omission nuns were not mentioned at all in the act of banishment. And so they survived.
A list compiled in 1735 names 14 Dominicans of Galway, of whom only four were resident in Galway itself. The others were in various parts of the Continent, except for one who had found his way to the Indies. In 1756 there were 9. Ironically, while the number of friars of all Orders increased under the penal laws up to 1744, they dropped gradually thereafter, largely because of the decree of Propaganda Fide (1750) forbidding the future reception of novices in Ireland. This gradual decline continued for a full century. The country priories, for example most of those in Connacht, eventually ceased to exist. Those, like Galway, in towns or cities were better able to survive.