New Bishop of Galway appointed

Appointment breaks pattern of episcopal appointments from outside dioceses

A new Bishop of Galway was appointed this morning with the translation there of Bishop Brendan Kelly from Achonry, where he has served since 2008.

It is an unusual move in that Bishop Kelly is himself a priest of Galway diocese and his appointment as Bishop there represents a break with the practise established during the tenure of previous papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown of appointing outsiders as bishop of any particular diocese.

Archbishop Brown was succeeded this year as papal nuncio by Archbishop Jude Okolo, the first Nigerian to ever serve in the role in Ireland, and the move of Bishop Kelly to Galway is the first episcopal appointment made since he arrived here last summer.

The Association of Catholic Priests, which represents approximately one thousand priests in Ireland, had been very critical of the pattern which saw the appointment of bishops who were not native to a diocese.


Bishop Kelly gave the homily last March at the funeral of former Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey at the Cathedral Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas in Galway city.

He recalled Bishop Casey as a man who did much good but had "hidden realities" in his life which proved earth-shattering for the Catholic Church. "We are all sinners, but irresponsibility, infidelity and sin are particularly shocking in the lives of those who preach the Gospel," he said.

There were also “those of us who remember, with gratitude, his kindness and encouragement when personally we most needed it,” he said.

With the retirement in 2005 of Bishop James McLouglin, who succeeded Dr Casey as Bishop of Galway, it was known that the priests of Galway had hoped the then Msgr Kelly, parish priest at Spiddal Co Galway, would become Bishop.

However then Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Martin Drennan was translated to Galway instead. He retired in July last year.

In November 2007 it was announced that then Msgr Kelly had been appointed Bishop of Achonry. Born in 1946 at Derrybrien, Loughrea, Co Galway he attended Craughwell National School and subsequently was a boarder at St Mary's College in Galway city after which he went to Maynooth.

Ordained in June 1971 by then Bishop of Galway Michael Brown at the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas in Galway city, he was appointed curate at Kinvara before taking up a teaching post at Coláiste Éinde, Salthill in 1972

In 1980 he was transferred to Our Lady's College, Gort, becoming President in 1986. In 1996 he was appointed parish priest at Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare and in 2003 became parish priest at Spiddal.

Canon Michael McLoughlin, administrator of Galway diocese, said this morning on the announcement of Bishop Kelly’s appointment “we are very pleased indeed that he has come back to us.” He added “with great joy and with a feeling of some relief, I am honoured and I am proud to say to our new bishop - ceád mile fáilte romhat abhaile arís.”

For his part Bishop Kelly said "I am still somewhat in shock. Having settled happily in Achonry, I never expected to be asked to take on the shepherding of another diocese. However, the fact that it is my own native diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora makes it much easier to say yes to this appointment with which Pope Francis has chosen to honour me. I am very grateful to the Holy Father for his trust. And it is good to be coming home."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times