Remembering Cardinal Desmond Connell

Sir, – I knew Desmond Connell when he was the professor of philosophy in UCD.

When I started there in 1985 it wasn’t long before he spotted a family resemblance; it turned out that my grandfather had been one of his favourite teachers. After that discovery the professor had a lot of time for me.

Prof Connell’s appointment to archbishop was a mistake in my belief. He was an intensely shy man, more comfortable dealing with books than with people. He wasn’t cut out for the role, and the fact that he was appointed was a tragedy for so many, as well as for himself.

I saw him for the last time at a State-held ceremony to congratulate him on being made a cardinal. His eyes welled up when he saw me and he commented on how good it was to see a “friendly face”.


In my mind the professor is home now, in his office on the fifth floor, pondering the meaning of Being and other metaphysical matters. The sun is shining in through the oversized windows as he looks out over the campus with his very sad, very blue eyes.

Now he knows the truth about the “substance of angels”. – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.

Sir, – It was with sadness that I learned of the death of Cardinal Desmond Connell.

I got to know him well as a doctor travelling with the Dublin diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.

He was a true gentleman and utterly committed to the care of the sick pilgrim.

He spent many hours every day visiting the wards in Lourdes talking to individual pilgrims and never missing a ceremony or event for the sick. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said of his predecessor, Cardinal Desmond Connell, that “He was a man who struggled. Struggled with himself, with wanting to do the right thing. He realised he made mistakes. He apologised for his mistakes and kept going”.

Is it not to be expected that a man will struggle with himself when he wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t? If Cardinal Connell struggled it was because he put the concerns of an institution before the suffering of those abused by that institution. When the media no longer allowed Cardinal Connell to hide the truth behind “mental reservation”, at that point, and that point only, did he apologise for his “mistakes”. Instead of retiring in solidarity with the victims, he then, as Diarmuid Martin reminds us, “kept going”. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir,– The recent death of Cardinal Desmond Connell will no doubt result in the airing of many critical voices regarding his effectiveness as a leader within the Catholic Church during his tenure as archbishop of Dublin.

My own memories of Desmond Connell are of a kind, patient and passionate teacher in UCD. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.