Former Catholic bishops’ spokesman Fr Martin Clarke dies

Qualified solicitor was first man who was not a bishop to become Director of Communications

Former spokesman for the Catholic bishops Fr Martin Clarke who died yesterday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Former spokesman for the Catholic bishops Fr Martin Clarke who died yesterday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 14:35

Fr Martin Clarke (66), the former spokesman for the Catholic bishops, has died in Dublin following a long illness.

From Booterstown, Co Dublin, Fr Clarke was born in December 1946, the youngest of family of five born to Peter Clarke, a career civil servant, and his wife Greta Lysaght.

As a boy he attended nearby Willow Park and later Blackrock College.

At UCD he studied law and qualified as a solicitor in 1970.

He practiced with the Eugene F Collins law firm where he was a partner when in 1976 and at the age of 29 he entered Clonliffe College in Dublin to study for the priesthood.

In 1980 he was ordained at the Church of the Assumption, Booterstown, the first priest to be ordained there though the church had opened in 1813.

He was appointed curate at Celbridge and Straffan, Co Kildare.

In 1983 he was appointed director of the Catholic Youth Council in Dublin, then with a staff of 250, including 50 professional youth workers, looking after the interests of about 180,000 young people.

In 1997 he was appointed Director of Communications for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the first man who was not a bishop to hold the post.

His years in that office up to 2003 included some of the most turbulent experienced by the Catholic Church in Ireland over recent decades.

From 2003 he served briefly as Director of Communications for the Dublin Archdiocese before becoming parish priest at Monkstown in 2004.

He was there five years until his appointment as parish priest at Donnybrook in 2009.

His removal will to the Church of the Sacred Heart at Donnybrook at 5pm tomorrow with funeral Mass there at 10am on Saturday.

Burial afterwards will be in Deansgrange cemetery.