Donal McKeown

Donal McKeown
The Most Reverend
 Dónal McKeown
Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Bishop of Cell Ausaille (titular)
Church Catholic
See The Diocese of Down and Connor
In Office 2001 - present
Successor incumbent
Ordination 3 July 1977
Consecration 15 May 1983
Personal details
Born 12 April 1950 (1950-04-12) (age 61)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Previous post President of St Malachy's College

Dónal McKeown is the Catholic titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille and Auxiliary Bishop in The Diocese of Down and Connor.


Early years

He was born on 12 April 1950 in Belfast and baptised in St. Patrick's Church 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 RTE, 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.

He continued his involvement with youth programmes and is credited as the founder of the Diocesan Lourdes Youth Team in 1985. In 1983 he was appointed to his alma mater St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower.

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 is 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 - 1982 with a team of 48 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, Fr McKeown continued his own education, taking a Masters Degree in Business Administration specialising in educational management from the University of Leicester in 2000.

Auxiliary Bishop of Down & Connor

On 22 February 2001, Very Rev Donal McKeown was appointed Titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille and Auxiliary Bishop in The Diocese of Down and Connor. His Episcopal Motto is 'Veritas in Caritate', the truth in love.

The Episcopal Ordination of Dr McKeown took place in Saint Peter's Cathedral, Belfast. Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor, was the Principal Consecrator. He was assisted by Dr Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and Dr 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. He said, '"In fact you make history as you are the first bishop to be ordained for an Irish diocese in this millennium".

The Ordination Mass was celebrated 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.

He is currently a member of the Irish Bishops' Conference. He is a member of its Committee on Education and Chairman of the Vocations and Youth Committee. He led the Diocese Youth 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.

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.


In addition to English and Irish, Bishop McKeown can speak fluently German, Italian, as well as strong French and Polish. He has also attended courses in Russian and Arabic.


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 labeled 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.


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