In praise of .....

Dean Victor Griffin

Dean Victor Griffin former Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Photograph: Alan Betson

Dean Victor Griffin former Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, May 24, 2014, 01:00

As a young Church of Ireland priest in Derry, Victor Griffin annoyed the Protestants. Later, when he came to Dublin as Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, he upset the Catholics. And all of this despite his mother’s advice.

When he was growing up on a farm at Carnew, on the Wexford-Wicklow border, she used say to him: “Keep off religion and politics, Victor, or you’ll get us all burned out,” he told The Irish Times last December.

In Derry he was involved with John Hume and others “fighting for a more tolerant and pluralist society. Northern Ireland at that time had the Protestant ascendancy.” He opposed it. “People thought I was very anti-Protestant, and I used . . . be told take myself back to my Fenian brethren in the South.”

As Dean of St Patrick’s from 1969 until 1991, he ruffled feathers. “I opposed the Catholic ascendancy, and I was taken to task by a person called Oliver Flanagan in Dáil Éireann. He called me ‘another Paisley’ and said I should take myself back to my Orange brethren in the North.”

“I was completely misunderstood. What I was getting at was the importance of pluralism in Ireland, but nobody seemed to understand. This was when ‘pluralism’ was a foreign word in Ireland.” He was not deterred and they listened. He helped to shape contemporary Ireland.

Dean Victor Griffin was born 90 years ago today, on May 24th, 1924. Happy birthday.