Donal McKeown

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Dónal McKeown
Bishop of Derry
Donal McKeown.jpg
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
DioceseDiocese of Derry
In office25 February 2014–present
PredecessorSéamus Hegarty
Ordination3 July 1977
Consecration29 April 2001
Personal details
Born (1950-04-12) 12 April 1950 (age 68)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Previous postAuxiliary Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Down & Connor
Coat of armsDónal McKeown's coat of arms

Dónal McKeown (born 12 April 1950) is a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and Bishop of Derry in Ireland. He previously served as Titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille and auxiliary bishop in The Diocese of Down and Connor.

Early years[edit]

He was born on 12 April 1950 in Belfast and baptised in St Patrick's Church, Belfast in Donegall Street, though his childhood was spent in Randalstown, County Antrim.

He was educated at Mount St Michael's Primary School and St MacNissi's College, Garron Tower where he was a boarder from 1961–1968. He completed his O-Levels and A-Levels with special distinction in Modern Languages. Two of his teachers were his future brother bishops, Fr Anthony Farquhar (who taught Latin) and Fr Patrick Walsh (who taught Mathematics).

He entered the Diocesan Seminary, Saint Malachy's College, in 1968, and studied at Queen's University, Belfast, where he obtained a Bachelor's Degree with Honours in German and Italian in 1973. From 1970 to 1971 he taught English at a school in Dieburg Germany. From 1971–73 he was Northern Ireland correspondent for the German Katholische Nachrichten Agentur (KNA). Then from 1973 to 1978 he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, obtaining the degree of Licentiate in Sacred Theology. During the five years in Rome he did occasional work as a newscaster for the Vatican Radio and as correspondent for An Saol Mor, an Irish language programme on RTÉ, the Irish national radio station.

After ordination to the priesthood in 1977, he was briefly chaplain at Mater Infirmorum Hospital in Belfast. In 1978 he began a 23-year career as a teacher. He was appointed to teach Religious Education and German at St. Patrick's College, Knock (1978–83) while assisting at the same time in the parish of Derriaghy. In 1983 he was appointed to teach at his alma mater St MacNissi's College, Garron Tower. He continued his involvement with youth programmes and is credited as the founder of the Diocesan Lourdes Youth Team in 1985.

Bishop Cahal Daly then appointed him to teach full-time at St. Malachy's College, Belfast in 1987 and also to be in charge as Dean of the Seminary which was situated in St Malachy's. In 1995 he succeeded Canon Noel Conway as President of St. Malachy's College. He twice ran the full Belfast Marathon – in 1982 with a team of 48 from the parish of Derriaghy and as bishop in 2001 in an attempt to raise money for a minibus for St Malachy's.

While in the post of President, McKeown continued his own education, taking a Master's degree in Business Administration specialising in educational management from the University of Leicester in 2000.

Episcopal Ministry[edit]

On 22 February 2001, Donal McKeown was appointed titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille and an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Down and Connor. His episcopal motto is 'Veritas in Caritate', the truth in love.

It was reported that the inclusion of McKeown's name as a possible successor to Dr Walsh as Bishop of Down and Connor, in an article in The Irish News, provoked active opposition from some Catholic priests who regard McKeown as "too soft" on the issue of integrated education, which they oppose. This opposition was labelled a "Stop Donal" campaign. On 28 March 2007, the BBC journalist, William Crawley, reported on his blog about the campaign. On Tuesday, 10 April 2007, the Irish Times religion correspondent Patsy McGarry published an article about the campaign.

McKeown was consecrated bishop in Saint Peter's Cathedral, Belfast. Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor, was the principal consecrator. He was assisted by Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop in Down and Connor. Bishop Walsh said during the homily that the consecration of his new auxiliary was an historic occasion as the first bishop to be consecrated for an Irish diocese in the third millennium.

McKeown was consecrated in the presence of Cahal Daly, Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh, Desmond Connell, Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin and Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

As of 2015 he was a member of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference and of its committee on education and chairman of the vocations and youth committee. He led the youth of the diocese to World Youth Day in 2002 (Toronto) and 2005 (Cologne). He was one of the bishops who travelled to Rome for their Quinquennial Visit Ad Limina visit in October 2006. He is a regular contributor on the BBC Radio Ulster Thought for the Day programme.

In February 2014 McKeown was appointed by Pope Francis bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry. He spoke of how he would love to have been a father. Bishop McKeown said that he loved female company, but said of marriage, "It was not my vocation". Bishop McKeown has wide experience of second-level education in Northern Ireland, having been a teacher from 1978 until he became president at St. Malachy's College in Belfast in 1995. He retained that post until he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the diocese in 2001. In the event Noel Treanor succeeded Dr Walsh.[1]

On Sunday 6 April 2014, Donal McKeown was installed as Bishop of Derry in Saint Eugene's Cathedral Derry. The principal celebrant was accompanied by Sean Cardinal Brady, retired Archbishop of Armagh and former Primate of All Ireland. The principal concelebrants were Charles John Brown apostolic nuncio to Ireland; Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh; Séamus Hegarty, Bishop-emeritus of Derry; Edward Daly, Bishop-emeritus of Derry; Francis Lagan, auxiliary bishop emeritus in the Derry Diocese and Fr. Francis Bradley.[2]

Representatives of the other Christian churches in the city were present at the ceremony, along with civic representatives which included the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness and the MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan. The president of Ireland Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny were both represented at the ceremony by their aides.[3][4]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Séamus Hegarty
Bishop of Derry
Succeeded by