Former Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78

Catholic Primate Eamon Martin pays tribute to a ‘deeply spiritual, devoted and generous priest and bishop’

Former Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has died aged 78.

Dr Drennan was an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1997 and, as such, he came with the ambit of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation which published its report (the Murphy report) in November 2009.

The only substantial reference to him in the report concerned his hearing reports of inappropriate behaviour involving a priest and male teenagers in 2002 and 2003. The report found that “the archdiocese acted correctly in immediately addressing concerns and suspicions in this case”.

Critics pointed out, however, that he was an auxiliary bishop in a period when the archdiocese did not consider itself under any obligation to co-operate with Garda investigations and when it failed to provide full information to the civil authorities. In response, Bishop Drennan noted that “the role of the auxiliary bishop was to support the decisions of the archbishop. All major decisions are made by the archbishop. We did not have access to the files or information on individual priests”.


He was appointed Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora in 2005, taking over from the late Bishop James McLaughlin who had succeeded Eamon Casey following his sudden resignation in 1992.

From Kilkenny, where he was born on January 2nd 1944, Dr Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and the Biblical Instiute in Rome before being ordained for his native diocese of Ossory in July 1968.

Following two years as a curate, he taught at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny for seven years until 1980 before further study in Rome. He then returned to the faculty of theology in Maynooth where he was later appointed professor of Old Testament and taught Hebrew.

In a tribute, the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin described Bishop Drennan as “a quiet person by nature” who was “a deeply spiritual, devoted and generous priest and bishop, who was widely respected for his piety, humility, intelligence and strength of character”.

Archbishop Martin said he hoped that Bishop Drennan’s brother, Fr Michael Drennan SJ, other family members and loved ones “will find comfort in knowing that he was a good and faithful servant of the Gospel”.

“I extend sympathy also to the parishioners and clergy in Galway and in his former diocese of Dublin.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times