BISHOP Fintan Monahan has defended his appointment of Fr Ignatius McCormack as principal of St Flannan’s College in an interview with The Clare Champion, following concerns raised and reported in The Irish Times.
The Bishop of Killaloe said direct appointment is the way priest principals were appointed in the past, that it is “not without precedent” and that he had it “utterly checked” beforehand. He said direct appointment “is normal practice”.
“That’s the way all past priest principals would have been appointed and there is a facility for doing that in diocesan colleges. There is a thing called the articles of management and under Article 20, the patron of the school is entitled to appoint a priest directly to be principal of the school, so that is allowable in diocesan colleges”.
He outlined that lay principals would be advertised publicly and filled following an interview process. He added that St Flannan’s College is “very fortunate to have Fr Ignatius in situ in the college and he is eminently qualified”.
There is no other priest currently on the teaching staff in the school.
“He has not only basic degrees but he has qualifications in leadership management. Most other diocesan colleges don’t have someone of his calibre and quality there, so we are very fortunate to have him there. He is very interested in giving the school a good leadership dynamic. He had an interest and I think he will be excellent in the job. In my mind he is the right man in the right place at the right time,” Bishop Monahan said.
Responding to reports in The Irish Times which canvassed concerns over the way a priest was appointed to the principal position, Bishop Monahan said he was “puzzled” as “not a single person has expressed dissatisfaction to me”.
“In relation to The Irish Times article, they say concerns were expressed but not a single concern has been expressed to me. A huge amount of praise has been made to me on the appointment. A huge amount of people have phoned and contacted me to say it was a very good appointment.”
He added that if anybody has concerns or a complaint, he would be “very willing to sit down and meet with them and explain the process of appointment and to explain what these articles of management is within a Diocesan school”.
“I’d be more than happy to talk to them and explain the procedure, if they felt it wasn’t done properly but I had it utterly checked as to the legalities of it beforehand,” he said.
He noted the majority of the country’s diocesan colleges have lay people in situ but added if other colleges had a person like Fr Ignatius interested in the role, they wouldn’t have acted any differently.
“Other dioceses would probably do the very same if they had someone like Fr Ignatius,” he continued.
“I came from St Jarlath’s College myself, where there was a priest president up until a couple of years ago. Now the first lay person is in place. In the Jes [Coláiste Iognáid] in Galway, a similar appointment was made last year – a brother of the TD Clare Daly was put in there after a few lay people had been principal. He is a Jesuit priest. The same happened in Callan CBS last year, even after a number of lay people had been in situ, so it is not without precedent,” he said.
Bishop Monahan concluded by wishing outgoing principal Carmel Honan all the best in her new appointment. “She has done a fantastic job!”
By Carol Byrne