Influential priest to stand down from major role after 10 years

Fr Tim Bartlett served as assistant to Cardinal Brady

Fr Tim Bartlett, who has played a hugely influential role in the Irish Catholic Church this past 10 years, steps down today from his primary role as assistant to Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady.

Whether engaging on behalf of the church with authorities in the Republic or Northern Ireland, on reconciliation, education, clerical abuse, abortion or other issues, he has invariably impressed even those who might not share his beliefs or agree with his arguments.

An example was his participation in the Catholic Church's presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children last January on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, as it was then.

He has represented the church in meetings with loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and, last month, represented it at the DUP annual conference, in a panel discussion.


A priest of Down and Connor diocese, it was also he who headhunted Ian Elliott to become chief executive of the then newly formed church child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children, in 2007.

Arguably one of the more crucial moves in the church’s attempt to gain credibility when it came to the protection of children, it would also become something of a turbulent appointment where some bishops and other senior church figures were concerned. Mr Elliott had previously been with the Department of Health and Social Security in Northern Ireland, where he drew up the legislation on child protection.

Religious congregations In May 2009, following publication of the Ryan report, Fr Bartlett got into hot water with the Conference of Religious of Ireland when he disturbed their silence by saying he believed the 18 religious congregations concerned should pay more than the €128 million capped by their 2002 indemnity agreement with the State.

At their winter meeting earlier this month, the Catholic bishops thanked Fr Bartlett “for his valuable and enormous contribution” to their work and paid “warm tribute” to him.

It is understood Fr Bartlett is to go on sabbatical leave before, no doubt, assuming a new role with the Catholic Church.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times