Archbishop Diarmuid Martin praised for ‘courage, tenacity and compassion’

‘We owe him a lot’: Political leaders, religious figures and abuse survivors pay tribute

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who formally stands down next Tuesday, has been praised for his "courage, tenacity and compassion," by President Michael D Higgins in one of many tributes.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has spoken of the archbishop's "empathy and Christianity" while former president Mary McAleese said he had "brought honest and principled leadership to the vexed issue of clerical sexual abuse of children and a dreadful history of episcopal mismanagement".

Dublin abuse survivor Marie Collins described Archbishop Martin as "a light in the darkness of the church response to the clerical child abuse crisis". Others to praise his record in Dublin, since appointment as coadjutor archbishop in May 2003, include church and faith leaders, as well as more abuse survivors.

Mr Higgins said: “Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has my best wishes for a retirement with health and fulfilment. Sabina and I will keep the warmth of his welcomes to us in our heart.”


The President said the archbishop "faced many challenges in administration and necessary changes. His forthrightness in sharing these challenges with the public and his personal responses with courage, tenacity and compassion will be remembered with affection and appreciation. May I send his successor Archbishop Dermot Farrell every good wish for now and the future in the great challenges he undertakes."

Mr Varadkar said that since the archbishop returned to Dublin "he has offered a new kind of leadership in the Catholic Church. One marked by his characteristic openness, honesty, humility and compassion."

His “custodianship of the Dublin archdiocese came at a time of unparalleled social change in our history. Thanks to his leadership there was a real change of culture when it came to protecting children and attempting to ease the suffering of the past. This brave and important work was never easy and I pay tribute to his courage and dedication.”

The archbishop “was central to the pope’s visit [in 2018], a major event for the entire country, which opened a new chapter in our relationship with the Catholic Church”.

Mr Varadkar continued: "I will never forget opening St Francis Hospice in Blanchardstown alongside him when I was minister for health on the same day as we counted the votes in the 2015 marriage equality referendum. His generous response to that result, though he opposed it, really demonstrated his empathy and Christianity."

Ms McAleese said Archbishop Martin goes into “a well deserved and I hope long, heathy and happy retirement after exceptional and sensitive service during tumultuous years. He brought honest and principled leadership to the vexed issue of clerical sexual abuse of children and a dreadful history of episcopal mismanagement and leaves office having done his utmost to ensure the best child protection measures are in place.”

‘A valued friend’

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said Archbishop Martin had been "a valued friend, both ecumenically and personally and I have appreciated the mutual trust that we have enjoyed as Archbishops of Dublin. From the day I arrived here as Archbishop of Dublin, I felt welcome by Archbishop Martin to a city which is his own."

Abuse survivor Ms Collins said that “during his time in office Archbishop Martin has been a light in the darkness of the church response to the clerical child abuse crisis. His condemnation of this and understanding of the effects on victims have gone beyond words to positive actions: opening his files, co-operating with the Murphy Commission investigation, setting up a professional child safeguarding office and supporting many survivors quietly without fuss.”

Many times “his words and actions may not have been popular with his colleagues but he had the courage to take the right course rather than the easy one. I wish more would have followed his example. Though sad to see Archbishop Martin move on, I wish him well in his retirement.”

Rabbi Zalman Lent of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation said that "over many years of interfaith dialogue, Archbishop Martin never failed to be gracious, welcoming and humble; a man of sincerity and dignity. It has been an honour and a privilege working with and alongside him, and on behalf of the Jewish community in Ireland I would like to wish him a long and happy retirement in the very best of health."

Dublin abuse survivor Darren McGavin said it was with "the utmost respect, humility, honesty and gratitude" he noted Archbishop Martin's "deserved retirement". He recalled how "we have met on several occasions along with Angela Copley RIP, to discuss, collaborate and deliberate as how best to be of service to those survivor of clerical sexual abuse and rape in our diocese and especially our community in Ballyfermot. Unfortunately we lost some victims of these atrocities to suicide. May their souls rest in peace eternally."

Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri said: “Archbishop Martin has been a personal friend and a friend of the Irish Muslim community since my earliest days in Ireland. Never missing a chance to reach out to us in solidarity and friendship, he was always ready to go the extra mile in developing interfaith and charitable initiatives. I was extremely proud to have him as our guest in the first ever Eid prayer to be held in Croke Park last year.”

Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O'Gorman said: "I want to pay him a personal tribute and wish him all the best. He is a man of enormous integrity, decency, compassion and empathy. He made a huge difference in his role as Archbishop of Dublin, we owe him a lot."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times