A PRIEST who shocked his congregation after quitting his parish has married a mother of one in a civil ceremony.
Ian Kennedy (42) stunned the people of Ballinafad, Co Sligo, last Christmas after quitting the priesthood.
He wed childhood friend Maria Cunningham (41) at a luxury spa hotel last week, a few miles from the parish he once served.
Friends say Mr Kennedy said 'I do' in front of a handful of friends at Cromleach Lodge Spa Hotel.
The happy couple then hosted an informal lunch before spending two nights at the hotel, overlooking Lough Arrow, before returning to the home they share in the tiny hamlet of Ballinacarrow.
The new Mrs Kennedy has a young son, born last December at Sligo General Hospital.
Mr Kennedy stood down from his ministry at Ballinafad a few weeks later.
The simple civic ceremony was performed by Louise Mulchahy, a registered solemniser with the HSE in Sligo.
Witnesses at the ceremony included Sean Tansy, a close friend of Mr Kennedy and a schoolteacher from Boyle, Co Roscommon, and the bride's sister Noelle O'Carroll.
The couple had booked several dates at the hotel, finally deciding to the tie the knot last Wednesday.
Mr Kennedy has become a teacher since leaving the priesthood. His new wife works as a civil servant with the Department of Social Protection.
Neighbours yesterday refused to talk about the couple, with one only saying: "They are very private people and keep themselves to themselves."
Former parishoners in the village of Ballinafad said they were delighted he had found love.
"They make a lovely couple and we're all delighted for Fr Ian," said one local mother.
"He was a great priest and a great loss to the church here. I suppose it's a pity he didn't get married here because local people would have supported them."
The bride and groom didn't want to comment at their home in Temple Manor in Ballinacarrow yesterday.
They first met as children in Cartron, Sligo town, where they both grew up.