Bishop Eamon Casey dies aged 89

Mr Casey left Ireland amid controversy in the early 90's after it was discovered he had fathered a child with American divorcée Annie Murphy

Bishop Eamon Casey dies aged 89

Bishop Eamon Casey. Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated 20:32

The President Michael D. Higgins has led tributes to the former Bishop of Galway and Kerry, Eamon Casey who died today at the age of 89.

In a statement this evening, the Diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh said Bishop Casey died peacefully at Carrigoran Nursing Home in County Clare.

The Catholic Communications Office said he been ill for some time.

Bishop Casey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Limerick in 1951.

Homelessness and housing

Between 1960 and 1969 the then Father Casey pioneered the provision of housing for Irish emigrants to England and in 1963 was appointed National Director of the Catholic Housing Aid Society by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Appointed Bishop of Kerry in 1969, he became the first chairman of Trócaire, the Irish Catholic Church’s overseas development agency, at its foundation in 1973.

He was seen as a progressive and highly influential member of the church, until his resignation in 1992, after reports surfaced of his sexual relationship with American divorcée Annie Murphy.

Together they fathered a son, Peter who was born in 1974 in Dublin.

President's tribute

President Higgins said he had “heard with sadness of the passing of Eamon Casey, former Bishop of Galway and Kerry.” 
  
“There will be many who will remember his work on homelessness and housing with the Irish emigrant community in Britain,” he said.
  
“As Chairman of Trócaire, he encouraged the organisation to become a leading NGO campaigning for justice as well as responding to humanitarian distress and poverty in the developing world. 
  
“After his attendance at the funeral of Bishop Romero who was assassinated in El Salvador, Irish awareness of the sources of conflict in Central and South America was significantly increased. 
  
“While serving as mayor of Galway I was asked by Bishop Casey to visit, with other parliamentarians, El Salvador and to speak to the religious and others who were reporting on human rights and the killings that were taking place. 
  
“Other aspects of his life were the source of pain to others, for which Bishop Casey has apologised and expressed his deep regret, and he himself had the experience of pain visited on him in later life."

"The driving force behind Trócaire"

Trócaire has expressed regret at the former bishop's death, saying his work in the 1970s and 1980s had benefited millions of people around the world.

“Bishop Casey spoke out courageously in defence of persecuted communities overseas and was willing to place himself in danger in order to do so," Chairman Bishop William Crean said. "His campaigning, both at home and overseas, raised awareness of grave injustices and helped to bring about positive change.”

Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire, said that Bishop Casey would be remembered with gratitude in communities across the developing world:

“For two decades Bishop Casey was the driving force behind Trócaire. Bishop Casey and Brian McKeown, the first Director, formed a dynamic partnership. Together, they stood courageously with the world’s poor and championed their cause when others would not do so.”

Love and support

A statement on behalf of Bishop Casey’s family said:

“On behalf of his son, Peter, his brother, Father Micheál, his sister, Ita Furlong, nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, great-grand nieces and great-grand nephews, we wish to acknowledge the priestly work of Bishop Eamonn, especially in the pursuit of social justice for the marginalised, as evidenced by his work with Shelter in London in the 1950’s and 1960’s and later with his involvement in the setting up and development of Trócaire.”

“Notwithstanding the demands on his time, Bishop Eamonn was a great source of love and support, making himself available to celebrate and to empathise with us in all our important family occasions.”

Archbishop Eamonn Martin

“It is with great sadness that I learned today of the death of Bishop Eamonn Casey," Archbishop Eamonn Martin said in a statement. "Bishop Casey’s inspirational leadership of Trócaire pioneered a very significant pastoral outreach from this country towards the most vulnerable people in the developing world, while at the same time he energetically raised awareness of overseas development issues at home in Ireland.

"Both as priest and bishop, Bishop Casey’s ministry on behalf of Irish emigrants is well known and was of immense significance in particular to the Irish in Britain.”

Missionary

After leaving Ireland, he worked as a missionary priest with the Society of Saint James in Ecuador until 1998

In 2006 he returned to Ireland to live in Shanaglish, near Gort, Co Galway and subsequently at Carrigoran Nursing Home in Co Clare in 2011.