Bishop Brendan Kelly pays tribute to the late Brother Declan Duffy RIP

24 Apr 2014

Bishop Brendan Kelly, Chair of the Council for Education of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has issued the following statement on the death Brother Declan Duffy:

It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Brother Declan Duffy, who gave a lifetime of service to the Marist Brothers, to Marian College and to Irish secondary education.

Born in Ballaghdereen, Co Roscommon, in December 1927, he attended secondary school at the Marist Brothers in Athlone.   Deciding to become a Brother, he completed his degree at University College Dublin and was a member of the first team of teachers when the Marist Brothers, on the invitation of the then Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, opened Marian College in Ballsbridge, Dublin, on 8 September 1954.

Brother Declan’s leadership skills and business acumen were quickly identified and he was appointed Principal of the College at the age of 31 years in 1959.  He served two six-year terms as Principal and during his time at the school he added the “Prep” block and the third storey on the main building.  He also entered a partnership with Dublin Corporation to build the first indoor swimming pool built in the twentieth century in Dublin.   The pool, which opened in 1964, continues to serve the school and local community to this day.

During his time as Principal, he inaugurated an English Language Summer School which thrived until the early 2000’s and which became the model for many other such schools in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Brother Declan was also very actively involved in Minister Donogh O’Malley’s “free education” movement and in 1969 the three Marist schools in Ireland, along with 90% of the voluntary schools, joined the “free education” system.

When Brother Declan finished as Principal of the College in 1971, he became Provincial of the Marist Brothers in Ireland.  He was also elected Chairman of the Education Commission of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors.   As such he was central to the formation of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) and was a pioneer of the Community School movement, as evidenced by the fact that the Marist Brothers became Trustees of the first community school at Tallaght in Dublin.

In 1977 Brother Declan was appointed as Secretary General of the JMB.  He served with distinction in that role from 1977 until his retirement in 1996.  He was involved in many negotiations with the Department of Education and the ASTI union over that long period of time.  He was also centrally involved in the very significant introduction of Boards of Management to secondary schools, as well as attempts at improving the middle-management structures within those schools, and he also led the re-organisation of Catholic second-level management structures through the formation of the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools in 1987.

Brother Declan was a constant innovator, a great believer in life-long education, a great supporter of teaching and teachers and particularly of the involvement of lay-people in the management and leadership of schools.  

Unfortunately, although Brother Declan tried to continue to work in education after his retirement, he began to suffer memory loss and although he continued to live at Marian College until very recently, he died after a short illness on Easter Tuesday 22 April last, having spent almost sixty years at the College he loved. 

I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the Provincial of the Marist Brothers, Brother Brendan Geary, to Brother John Hyland, the Superior at Marian College, and to all Brother Declan’s confreres in the Marist Brothers.  I also wish to express my profound sympathy to Brother Declan’s family in Ballaghdereen.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.


Notes for Editors

  • Funeral details

The remains of Brother Declan Kelly RIP will be laid out in the Oratory at Marian College, Dublin, from 11.00am this morning.  Everyone is welcome to pray with the Brothers at the remains throughout the day.  The removal of the remains to Star of the Sea Church, Sandymount, Dublin, will take place at 4.45pm today, arriving at the Church at 5.00 pm.  The funeral Mass will take place in Church at 12.00 noon tomorrow Easter Friday, 25 April, with the burial taking place after the journey to the Marist Plot in Athlone, Co Westmeath, at 3.30pm.

  • Bishop Brendan Kelly is Bishop of Achonry and Chair of the Council for Education of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

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