Blackrock College to appoint new principal

Alan MacGinty, a past pupil of the school, has been principal since 2000

Blackrock College in Dublin, one of Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious schools, is seeking a new principal to take over next year.

Alan MacGinty, the school’s current principal, has led the school since 2000 and is due to finish at the end of the current academic year.

The 1,000-pupil school has been rocked by allegations by former students who say they were sexually abused by priests and other staff members at the school and others run by the Spiritans over a period dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.

It followed the airing of an RTÉ Radio documentary last month in which two brothers, Mark and David Ryan, told of how they were sexually abused by priests at the school in the 1970s, unbeknown to each other.


Colleagues say Mr MacGinty signalled earlier this year that he was due to retire, well before the latest controversy.

In a joint statement with the principals of Willow Park – the junior school on the campus of Blackrock College – last month he acknowledged that “great harm has been done to many pupils over an extended period”.

“A school must, first and foremost, be a place of complete safety for children of all ages. That this most fundamental tenet was breached by members of the staff in both Blackrock and Willow is something we, as an institution, must acknowledge,” said the statement from Mr MacGinty, Alan Rogan and James Docherty.

Applicants for the post of principal at Blackrock College have been told that the successful applicant will report to the chairperson of the board of management and will be “fully committed to the active leadership of the spiritual life and Spiritan ethos of the college”.

“As a faith leader you will lead, manage, develop, evaluate and co-ordinate all academic, pastoral and sporting aspects of school life,” the job description reads.

“You will promote a culture of high expectations and high standards. You will be an excellent team leader who will develop and lead teams to deliver ongoing improvement, collaboration, innovation and creativity in learning, teaching, and assessment. You will join a dynamic, evolving organisation, with a highly committed and excellent teaching staff and will enjoy significant active support from all stakeholders who share a passion for the college, including students, past and present, parents, past and present, the Spiritan congregation and the patron body, the Spiritan Education Trust.”

The recruitment process is being overseen by McGowan Spring Executive Search.

Mr MacGinty, who was the first lay principal of Blackrock College, took over from Fr Cormac O’Brolcháin in 2000.

A past pupil of the school, Mr MacGinty was employed as a teacher at the school for three decades and developed a reputation as a talented maths teacher and rugby coach.

As principal, colleagues said he brought a “results-oriented” approach to managing the school and, at one stage, published tallies of students’ Leaving Cert results on the school’s website.

While he has maintained a low public profile, his decision to take statements from two Blackrock students following the death of 18-year-old Brian Murphy in a fracas outside a Dublin nightclub in 2000 prompted a great deal of comment in education circles and beyond.

While some commentators at the time suggested his actions traversed Garda territory, others said he was simply helping two young men who turned to him in a panic.

As principal he has spoken of the need for a strong approach to student discipline and defended the school’s emphasis on high achievement in schools’ rugby and elsewhere.

“Good conduct is expected at all times, not only in school but also in the surrounding areas... a pupil or a pupil party to a group who brings the college community into disrepute while under the jurisdiction of the college is subject to sanction,” he wrote, early on in his principalship.

He also told The Irish Times in 2006 that the emphasis on achievement on the rugby pitch and elsewhere was part of the concept of a “search for excellence”.

“That is a transferable skill – to give of your best so everyone around you has an opportunity to give of their best; to work to a goal.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent