'Clean pair of hands' seen as too conservative by some clerics
Published 19/01/2013 | 05:00
THERE is a bit of wind in the sails of the Catholic Church in Ireland following the announcement that Monsignor Eamon Martin of Derry has been selected as its future leader.
Regarded by colleagues in Derry as a "hardworking and committed" young prelate, he has secured credibility through his role as a director of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCC).
He has worked closely with Ian Elliot over the past couple of years to push the church towards implementing standardised practices and norms.
The keen hill-walker, who is passionate about sacred music as well as gardening, also has strong pro-life credentials.
"A clean pair of hands" is how the retired Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, summed up Msgr Eamon Martin.
He also described him as "highly intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate, and an excellent communicator". He has a Master of Philosophy degree from the University of Cambridge.
However, some priests privately expressed concerns that he is too conservative and that he "will never do anything to rock the boat with Rome". That suggests that the Irish church's censured priests will fight their battles alone.
Msgr Martin was born in Pennyburn, Derry, in 1961 and is one of a family of 12 children, six girls and six boys. He was ordained in his native Pennyburn in June 1987.
Since then, he has undertaken a wide range of demanding roles in education.
Last year, he published plans to radically shake up the Catholic post-primary education in Derry, called Together Towards Tomorrow.
It aims to end academic selection and single sex schools, and create two new sixth form colleges in Derry city.
As the Vatican rolls out new appointments to the Irish hierarchy, one trend emerging is youth and orthodoxy.
The bishop elect of Limerick, Fr Brendan Leahy, told the Irish Independent that Msgr Martin "will be a great friend of young people".
He also welcomed his commitment to ecumenism, describing him as a man who "knows how to value the contribution of others, listening and learning from them".