‘Upset’ all round as priest made principal of Ennis school

Bishop of Killaloe appointed St Flannan’s only priest to the post without advertising

The appointment of the only priest on the staff of St Flannan's Diocesan College, Ennis, as its new principal is continuing to cause reverberations among staff, parents and others involved with the school.

People who have spoken to The Irish Times are strongly critical of the way Fr Ignatius McCormack (44) was appointed to the post by Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan without it being advertised.

St Flannan’s is a large co-educational school with 1,200 pupils and more than 80 teachers.

The current principal, Carmel Honan, has been been appointed principal at Glenstal Abbey School in Co Limerick, the first lay person and first woman to hold the post. She applied for the Glenstal post when it was advertised and took part in two rounds of interviews.


One source close to St Flannan’s said staff and parents at the school were “upset” at the way in which the principal’s post in their school had been filled. The appointment was announced by the bishop earlier this month without any advertisement or open competition.

“Everybody expected it to be advertised, but instead they were presented with a fait accompli.”


The source said that after Ms Honan’s departure was announced, there was a good deal of speculation at St Flannan’s about her likely successor and whether it would be an internal or external candidate.

“The post has a salary of about €100,000 due to the school’s size so it was expected to be advertised. People had aspirations.”

Ms Honan was the first female principal when appointed at St Flannan's in 2006 and Dr Kieran O'Reilly was bishop of Killaloe. The post was advertised and she went through an interview process.

Her predecessor at St Flannan's, Colm McDonagh, was its first lay principal. He was appointed in 2000 when Dr Willie Walsh was bishop of Killaloe. He too had responded to an advertisement and took part in an interview process.

“Everybody understood then that that was the end of the era of having a priest as principal,” according to another source.

Several people who spoke on condition of anonymity emphasised their concern is with the manner of the appointment and not with the priest appointed.

‘Lack of respect’

The "way it was done" was "a major source of disappointment and showed a lack of respect for the large staff at the college," one person said. It was "not good enough" for Bishop Monahan to say now he was willing to talk to people who had concerns about the matter. "Why not beforehand?"

Asked by The Irish Times why Bishop Monahan decided against advertising the post and conducting interviews, his spokesman said the bishop had made the appointment after consulting the Joint Managerial Body on correct procedure for his making the appointment.

Bishop Monahan then informed the board of management at St Flannan’s of his intention and also told its trustees. “It was only after having made representation to these three distinct bodies and having received no objection that the appointment was made,” the spokesman said.

‘Positive feedback’

He said the bishop had received “very positive feedback in relation to the appointment from a large number of people: clergy, laity, including members of the staff of the school.”

Such an appointment was not unique, he said. Recently there were “two voluntary secondary schools (Coláiste Iognáid in Galway and Callan CBS in Kilkenny) where a cleric/member of a religious order has been appointed following a lay principal. There could well be others of which I am not aware,” the spokesman said.

He said that “by this appointment, Bishop Monahan is showing his commitment to the ideals of Catholic education.”

The diocese would be making no further comment on the matter, he added.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times