Former Church of Ireland bishop Peter Barrett dies

Resignation as bishop of Cashel and Ossory in 2006 after three years in area was a shock

Rt Rev Peter Barrett at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. He had lectured in Anglican spirituality at Milltown Institute. Photograph: Collins

Rt Rev Peter Barrett at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. He had lectured in Anglican spirituality at Milltown Institute. Photograph: Collins


The former Church of Ireland Bishop of Cashel and Ossory Rt Rev Peter Barrett (59) died at his home in Dublin on Wednesday evening. His resignation as bishop in 2006 after three years in the diocese was sudden.

In a statement on January 25th, 2006, he said: “It is with a heavy heart and soul that I write to you. Following a period of rest and reflection in the midst of deep personal struggle, I regret very much to inform you that I am no longer able to cherish my marriage with the love my supportive wife, Anne, so deserves. As a result, I shall be separating from her on my own volition.

“Consequently, I am unable in all conscience to serve you as bishop with integrity and His Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, has accepted my resignation.”

It is understood Bishop Barrett had met a woman he had a relationship with when both were younger.

Realising the depth of affection they still held for one another, after much soul-searching, they decided to leave their respective families and go to the UK.

However both suffered greatly on realising the effects of what they had done, and the relationship ended.

He remained in the UK for some time, with regular visits to Ireland, before returning to Dublin in recent years. He became reconciled with his children while contact with his wife was renewed, and at the time of his death he was being dealt with by the Church of Ireland as a retired bishop.

Lack of information

On his resignation in 2006 there was criticism of the lack of information from Church of Ireland authorities.

This was addressed by then Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev John Neill when he spoke at St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, in February 2006.

He apologised “in all humility . . . to all those church members who have been let down or disappointed” by the resignation of Bishop Barrett.

“We are all sad for Bishop Peter and Anne and their family, and also for the other family equally broken in the sad events of the last few weeks and months,” he said.

He said that some “felt annoyed at the lack of information”, that they had read stories in the press that were neither denied nor confirmed by the church.

He said that the bishop and his family, like any other family, had the right to be treated in confidence by the church.

Commenting on Bishop Barrett’s resignation, he said that he and others “did our best to seek a way in which the sad, indeed tragic, situation might be prevented”.

It is understood that church authorities offered Bishop Barrett a lengthy period to consider his situation before making any decision about resignation. In the event he made his decision within a few weeks of that offer.

A native of Dublin, he attended Avoca-Kingstown School and Trinity College. He was ordained for Derry and Raphoe diocese in 1981 and, after a period in Dublin, became rector of Letterkenny and Gartan in Raphoe. Appointed dean of residence and chaplain at TCD in 1994, he became Dean of Waterford in 1998.

In November 2002, he was elected Bishop of Cashel and Ossory.

He had lectured in Anglican spirituality at Milltown Institute in Dublin but was also a keen sportsman and a one-time vice-president of Monkstown Hockey Club as well as a qualified hockey umpire.

In a tribute to him on Thursday the Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev Michael Jackson said: “Peter’s passing is felt with great sadness by a wide range of people and in particular by his family and by all who loved him most dearly.

“We commend him to the mercy and protection of Almighty God whom he strove to serve with warm devotion in this life. May he rest in peace.”