Knights of Saint Columbanus

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Knights of Saint Columbanus
Knights of Saint Columbanus.png
Abbreviation KSC
Motto Instaurare omnia in Christo
(To restore all things in Christ)
Formation 1915
Type Catholic Fraternal organization
Headquarters Ely House, Ely Place, Dublin
Supreme Knight
Barry C. MacMahon
Key people
James Kearney O'Neill

The Order of the Knights of Saint Columbanus (Irish: Ridirí Naomh Cholumba[1]) 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 Barry C. MacMahon.[2]

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."[3] 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."[4]
  • "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?"[5]
  • "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."[6]
  • "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."[7]

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."[8]

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."[9] 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."[10]

Associate Knights of St. Columbanus[edit]

The Associate Knights of St. Columbanus is the youth section of the order. Initially introduced as a pilot scheme in 2013 by the Newry Primary Council, this internal organisation has now sought approval to be introduced into every primary council in Ireland by 2017.

The scheme aims to remedy the ageing demographic of the Knights of St. Columbanus and the issues surrounding this, such as sympathising more with an ever diversifying Irish community and harnessing new technologies like social media.

Young men aged between 15 and 21 are encouraged to join via school, college or community group under the premise of building their faith, character and life skills. Through their local primary council, the Associates work and socialise as a group of friends who synthesise their own ideas surrounding voluntary and charity work in their community.

ReKindling Faith and Hope in the Housebound[edit]

ReKindling Faith and Hope in the Housebound is the largest scheme conceptualised and brought to fruition entirely by the Associate Knights in Newry. The venture aims to provide housebound and/or sick members of the local community with Kindle Fire tablets purchased through locally fundraised money. Recipients of the tablets are then able to watch local masses and other church services streamed via webcam. This initiative has received national acclaim as a way of enabling people to participate in their local community who otherwise would not have been able to do so.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Knights of Saint Columbanus website
  3. ^ McCormack, Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture (2001) p. 524.
  4. ^ Dáil Éireann 10 June 1953
  5. ^ Dáil Éireann 1 July 1953
  6. ^ Dáil Éireann 16 July 1969
  7. ^ Dáil Éireann 18 Oct 1977
  8. ^ Seanad Éireann 28 Nov 1956
  9. ^ Fintan O'Toole and Kieran Rose, The Evaluation of Gay and Lesbian Politics in Ireland (Cork, 1994) p. 29.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Cullen, P. 2016. ReKindling Faith In the Sick and Housebound. (Accessed 28 September 2016). [1]

External links[edit]