Keaney was born on 5 October 1888, at Corralskin, Kiltyclogher, Leitrim, Ireland, son of Terance Keaney, farmer, and his wife Mary, née McGowan. In 1911 he migrated to Australia and in 1916 he became a Christian Brother. In 1924 he became headmaster at Clontarf Orphanage, and he later taught at Christian Brothers College, Perth, and Christian Brothers College, Fremantle.
His record as a disciplinarian has come under growing scrutiny after former students recalled his role as that of a brutal disciplinarian with an ungovernable temper, who neglected their education, exploited their labour and turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct by staff members.
In the 2001 Australian Senate Community Affairs and References Committee Report, titled Lost Innocents: Righting the Record - Report on Child Migration, evidence revealed the depraved, violent and abusive nature of Brother Keaney and his role in the systematic abuse of children under his care. In submissions to the Committee report, individuals who had been abused by Keaney described his brutality; "I lost my teeth at Bindoon - my face kicked repeatedly by Brother Keaney". Similarly - "Br. Keaney was a very sadistic, perverted and deviant paedophile. He abused many of the boys... in his care. Tragically, there was just no one that we victims could go to for help. Who would have believed us any way?".
In an effort to raise awareness of the issue, Senator Andrew Murray spoke to a Matter of Public Interest stating "He (Keaney) was a sadist who indulged in criminal assault and who knowingly protected rings of predatory brothers engaged in systemic long-term sexual assault on defenceless children" (Hansard 2001, p. 27275).
Keaney was appointed MBE and ISO in 1953. In response to overwhelming evidence submitted to the aforementioned Senate report, numerous attempts at rescinding Br. Keaney's Imperial Honours have been made. Despite these requests and Senate committee findings these Honours still remain. He has an oval at Aquinas College named after him for his role in the purchase of their property from the Manning Family in 1937.
He died in Subiaco on 26 February 1954, aged 65.
- F. D. Shortill. "Keaney, Paul Francis (1888–1954)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- Senate Community Affairs and References Committee (30 August 2001). "Lost Innocents: Righting the Record - Report on Child Migration". Parliament of Australia.
- Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Hansard page 113, Senate FP&A Hansard p.161, 26 May 2003.
- Barry M Coldrey, The Scheme: The Christian Brothers and Childcare in Western Australia, Argyle-pacific Publishing, O'Connor, Western Australia, 1993, pp. 462 and 464.
- Western Australia Legislative Assembly, Report of the Select Committee into Child Migrants, Perth, 1996;
- House of Commons, Health Committee, The Welfare of Former British Child Migrants, Third Report, Session 1997-1998, HC 755-I and HC 755-II, Volumes I and II, London, 1997;
- Senate Community Affairs References Committee. "Inquiry into child migration". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2011-07-04. - Links to report, submissions, public hearing transcripts;