Legion d'Honneur for monsignor

Mon, Nov 19, 2001, 00:00

MGR Brendan Devlin, rector of the Irish College in Paris and emeritus professor of modern languages in the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, has been invested as Officer of the LΘgion d'Honneur by the French Government.

The ceremony took place at the French Embassy in Dublin last week, with the French Ambassador, Mr Gabriel de Bellescize performing the investiture. The honour is the highest given to a non-French national.

The citation mentioned Mgr Devlin's work for the restoration of the Irish College in Paris, his development of French studies at Maynooth, and his work as translator of several of the classics of French literature into Irish.

The monsignor was born in Gortin, Co Tyrone and educated at St Columb's College, Derry; Maynooth; the Irish College in Rome; and the Sorbonne, in Paris. He was professor of modern languages in Maynooth from 1958 to 1996.

Appointed Rector of the Irish College in Paris in 1984 by the late Cardinal ╙ Fiaich, he was given the mission of saving that centuries-old building and from 1991 to 2000 was secretary of the Fondation Irlandaise, the trust in which the College is vested.

When he first went to the Irish College in 1963, hoping to find a room there, he "was turned away at the door because the college was inhabited by 67 Poles . . . I had to go and live in a garret.

"It got up my nose so much I made a mental vow to 'remedy' the Poles and retrieve part of the mythology of Ireland."

Among the Polish priests who stayed at the College was Pope John Paul.