Knights of Saint Columbanus

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Knights of Saint Columbanus
Knights of Saint Columbanus.png
Abbreviation KSC
Motto To restore all things in Christ
Formation 1915
Type Catholic Fraternal organization
Headquarters Ely House, Ely Place, Dublin
Supreme Knight Bernard J. Burns
Key people James Kearney O'Neill

The Order of the Knights of Saint Columbanus is an Irish Catholic Fraternal organization for lay men over twenty-one years of age.


The order is divided into 12 Provincial Areas covering the island of Ireland. These are divided into smaller areas, each of which has a primary council. The Provincial Councils send delegates to the Council of Directors. A sub-committee of the Council of Directors, entitled "The Supreme Executive", controls and directs the twelve provincial areas. The head of the organisation—the Supreme knight—is elected by the Supreme Council for a three year term. Other members of the Supreme Executive include the Deputy Supreme Knight, Supreme Chaplain, Supreme Chancellor, Supreme Secretary, Supreme Advocate, Supreme Treasurer, Supreme Warden, Supreme Registrar and L.P. Supreme Knight. The current Supreme Knight is Bernard J. Burns.[1]

Involvement in Irish politics[edit]

Political scientist and historian Tom Garvin wrote that The Knights "became a considerable political force after independence... At one stage many officials in the Revenue were in the organization."[2] According to Garvin, President Seán T. O'Kelly was a member, much to the displeasure of Éamon de Valera.

Noël Browne, a controversial politician and former minister, criticised the Knights' political role in Dáil debates:

  • On elections to Hospital Boards: "On the Catholic side it is done through the Knights of Columbanus and on the Protestant side it is done through the Freemasons. It is completely undemocratic."[3]
  • "What we should like to know is, in the event of a Multi-Party government being formed, which party would be the real government? Would it be a Fine Gael government? Would it be a Labour government? Would it be a Labour Party policy - or would it be a Knight of Columbanus policy?"[4]
  • "In regard to the whole business of appointments [to the Universities], I do not think there is much to choose between the two of them—the Knights of Columbanus predominantly in University College and the Freemasons in Trinity College— and the two of them going on together presumably sharing out the different jobs to suit themselves."[5]
  • "There are still diehards of my generation within the profession but the new intake is not only extremely highly qualified but is better qualified because you cannot get into a consultant situation and then into a position as a consultant in a hospital unless you are extremely well qualified now because of the appointments system. It is no longer confined, as it was in the old days, to the Knights of Columbanus on the Catholic side and the Freemason Order on the other side."[6]

In the Seanad, William Bedell Stanford was also critical:

  • "One of the things that is doing most damage to our nation at the moment is the existence of these conflicting secret societies [interpreted as meaning the Freemasons and the Knights] and I hope the Minister and the other Minister will do all in their power to prevent their gaining any control of the national economy, or the politics of the country."[7]

More recently, Fintan O'Toole and Kieran Rose quoted a "leading right-wing activist" as writing that "in 1988 that members of the Knights of Columbanus occupy positions of influence in many walks of life and at the highest level. They are asked to be confidentially politically active."[8] Professor Áine Hyland wrote of beginning of the Dalkey School Project that a pamphlet denouncing multi-denominational education as atheistic and divisive was issued by an organisation "with an address in Ely Place which was the headquarters of the Knights of St. Columbanus."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Knights of Saint Columbanus website
  2. ^ McCormack, Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture (2001) p. 524.
  3. ^ Dáil Éireann 10 June 1953
  4. ^ Dáil Éireann 1 July 1953
  5. ^ Dáil Éireann 16 July 1969
  6. ^ Dáil Éireann 18 Oct 1977
  7. ^ Seanad Éireann 28 Nov 1956
  8. ^ Fintan O'Toole and Kieran Rose, The Evaluation of Gay and Lesbian Politics in Ireland (Cork, 1994) p. 29.
  9. ^ Multi-Denominational Schools in the Republic of Ireland 1975-1995, Professor Áine Hyland, paper given at Conference Education and Religion organised by C.R.E.L.A. at the University of Nice. 21–22 June 1996, Educate Together

External links[edit]