Priest appointed principal of Clare school after bishop's recommendation

Bishop says he is ‘willing to discuss’ appointment of priest in Ennis

Concerns have been raised over the way a priest was appointed as the new principal of St Flannan's College, Ennis, Co Clare.

Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan has said he is willing to discuss his appointment of Fr Ignatius McCormack with anyone who feels adequate consultation did not take place or that proper procedures were not followed.

St Flannan's is a co-ed secondary school with more than 1, 200 pupils and about 80 teachers. Past pupils include President Michael D Higgins, hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald, and RTÉ's Marty Morrissey.

The college's two previous principals were first female principal Carmel Honan and, prior to her, its first lay principal Colm McDonagh.


Ms Honan has been appointed the first female and first lay principal at Glenstal Abbey School in Co Limerick, following two rounds of interviews.

‘Moving with the times’

In 2012, when she was appointed principal at St Flannan's, she told the Clare Champion that "if you go back to the roots of St Flannan's, it was always about moving with, and responding to, the times. That was proven when Colm McDonagh became the first lay principal and my appointment is in keeping with St Flannan's record of responding to changing times."

The new principal Fr McCormack (44) has been on the staff at St Flannan’s since 2001.

Complaints to The Irish Times did not concern him, his qualifications or competence, which are not in question, but rested on claims that Dr Monahan made the appointment without due consultation.

It was also queried how, at a time when Killaloe is short of clergy, he could appoint a priest to a non-clerical role.

In response, Dr Monahan said he is “happy to address any concerns expressed” in relation to the appointment.

He is “not aware of any complaints but would be very happy to meet with anybody who needed further clarification”, a spokesman said. The bishop consulted the Joint Management Board prior to initiating the appointment process, “to ensure that all the statutory regulations were followed”.

Strict observance

The appointment “was made with strict observance of the conditions laid down in the Articles of Management for Voluntary Secondary Schools 2015 from the JMB (Joint Managerial Body for Secondary Schools),” the spokesman said.

When the vacancy at St Flannan’s arose the bishop “wrote to the Board of Management informing them of his intention to recommend the appointment of Fr Ignatius McCormack as principal to the Trustees of the College”.

“Following discussion at a subsequent meeting of the trustees it was decided unanimously to accept the Bishop’s proposal and approve the appointment. The Board have since been informed of the appointment,” the spokesman said.

On the appointment of a priest to the role, Dr Monahan acknowledged this “may seem like a counter-intuitive move in the light of clergy shortages” but it “underlined the commitment to Catholic education in the diocese,” the spokesman said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times