Northern Ireland

Monsignor Martin moves to Armagh in preparation for new post

Monsignor Eamon Martin is likely to be the cardinal's successor
Image caption Monsignor Eamon Martin leaves Derry to move to Armagh

Monsignor Eamon Martin, the clergyman set to become the next Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, officially moves to the city on Friday.

In January, Monsignor Martin was appointed as coadjutor (assistant) Archbishop of Armagh to Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland.

Cardinal Brady will stay as Archbishop until at least 2015 but on retirement, Monsignor Martin will succeed him.

Monsignor Martin, 52, will be inaugurated in Armagh on Sunday.

He says he is both "fearful" and "enthusiastic" about his new role.

Formidable challenges

In effect, it means he will work under Cardinal Brady - the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland - and is in line to eventually replace him in that role.

As such he will face formidable challenges, including dealing with the legacy of the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.

Monsignor Martin already has considerable experience of the challenge ahead, having served as a director of the National Board for Safeguarding Children - the watchdog body set up by the Irish church in response to the clerical abuse scandal.

Ahead of his move to Armagh, Monsignor Martin told the BBC: "As far as I'm concerned, children are part of the life of the church but we need to assure parents and children that they're protected. That they are safe when they come along for church activities, that they are as safe here as they are in their own homes.

"Certainly that is why I think it's very important that we see the safeguarding of children as work that is going on and becomes part of our life."

'New generation'

Before his most recent appointment, Monsignor Martin had served as administrator of the Diocese of Derry since November 2011, following the retirement of the Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty on health grounds.

Derry-based journalist Eamonn McCann said the church authorities had been looking for a future leader who was from a "new generation entirely" and who was not implicated in the mishandling of clerical abuse allegations.

He said Monsignor Martin would be "seen as a clean pair of hands and a clean conscience going into Armagh at a time when the church seriously needs people who do not bring with them dark baggage from the past".

The new coadjutor Archbishop was born in Derry in 1961 to a family of 12 children.

He served as an altar boy at St Patrick's Chapel in Pennyburn, close to their home.

'Proud'

His eldest brother, Joseph Martin, described him as a happy, popular and "fun-loving" child.

"I have to say, as every Derry mammy would say, he was a good boy," Mr Martin said.

He added that the Martin family were proud and honoured when their brother Eamon entered Maynooth as a young man to study for the priesthood and were even prouder when he was ordained at the age of 26.

But in response to his latest appointment, Mr Martin said: "When he was chosen for this elevated role we were quite humble."

When he was first unveiled as Cardinal Brady's likely successor, Monsignor Martin spoke about the influence of his large family, and the new cross and ring that he will wear as coadjutor Archbishop also bears a strong family connection.

The items have been made in his native city by Fallers jewellers and goldsmith Una Carlin has spent many hours designing and making the special commission.

She said: "Because St Patrick was the original Bishop of Armagh , Fr Eamon wanted to represent that within his own pectoral cross, so he chose the St Patrick cross of Carndonagh to be the main feature of the design.

"Carndonagh, which is part of the Derry diocese, is where he father was born, so it has particular relevance to him," Ms Carlin added.

More on this story

Around the BBC