A STAUNCH pro-life champion nicknamed 'The Machine' will head up the Catholic Church in Ireland, paving the way for Cardinal Sean Brady to step down.
Monsignor Eamon Martin has been appointed assistant in the Archdiocese of Armagh, but it will be 2015 at the earliest before Cardinal Brady retires.
Cardinal Brady announced Msgr Martin's appointment as Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh outside St Patrick's Cathedral after a scheduled morning Mass. It is a position Cardinal Brady held in the 1990s when the Vatican moved to replace Cardinal Cahal Daly.
One of Msgr Martin's first roles will be to lobby for the church's anti-abortion stance as the Government legislates to allow terminations on strict medical grounds.
In recent times he has taken a prominent role in asserting the church's pro-life message; he attended last month's pro-life vigil in Dublin. Closer to home, he is co-ordinating a 40-day campaign of prayer and activism within his diocese to oppose moves allowing abortion on either side of the Border.
Msgr Martin will become the first Derry man to lead the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The administrator of the Diocese of Derry is the third new bishop to be appointed in recent weeks following a gap of almost three years in appointments despite several vacancies.
He is known for his administrative ability, indeed his nickname among clerics is 'The Machine' because of his high work ethic. He is a mathematician and a musician.
After a wide-ranging address to parishioners in Armagh following the announcement, the 52-year-old said the church had to have the courage to speak out on issues.
"Sometimes it is a voice that people would prefer not to hear, particularly on the issue of abortion," Msgr Martin said.
"(Protections) could be clarified in the form of guidelines and made clearer – so that none of our doctors and none of our nurses feel that they do not know, or they would not be secure, in doing what they believe is the best thing to protect life."
Church sources revealed that Cardinal Brady is now expected to retire as archbishop and head of the church in Ireland in the next two to four years. Aged 73, he has led the church here for more than 16 years.
Msgr Martin is the third episcopal appointment under the watch of Archbishop Brown. It is too soon to discern a pattern, but the papal nuncio will have a further chance to show his game plan in coming weeks.
Cloyne and Limerick have new bishops and now Armagh has an exit strategy for Cardinal Brady. But Kerry, Kildare and Leighlin, Ardagh and Clonmacnois and Derry all await a new bishop.