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The Very Reverend Professor Martin O'Callaghan RIP


A statement issued by St Mary’s University College, Belfast on the passing of former Principal, Fr Martin O’Callaghan RIP.

St Mary’s University College mourns the passing of our highly esteemed former Principal, Fr Martin O’Callaghan. Fr Martin joined the staff of the College in September 1984, having previously worked as a lecturer in New Testament Studies in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. At St Mary’s, he was a very active member of the Religious Studies Department and he was a key player in the College becoming a recognised theological college of Queen’s University. Fr Martin was a very popular lecturer with whom his students had a relaxed and warm rapport. He was dynamic by nature and ambitious in his teaching and learning goals.

He became Principal of the College on 1st September 1992 and approached the role with the same traits which characterised his teaching. Fr Martin was a leader who enjoyed an excellent working relationship with his staff for whom he cared greatly. His warm and engaging personality shone through in the role he performed. He had a very clear and ambitious vision of how the College would develop under his leadership. This was manifest most in the new mission statement which the College adopted at the time and which is still at the heart of St Mary’s corporate strategy. He was passionate about the distinctive contribution of service and excellence which the Catholic tradition brings to school education and higher education all over the world. Fr Martin pioneered the transformation of the College into a religious, educational, cultural and social resource for the local community, he promoted the beginning of Irish-medium teacher education as well as an international dimension and he supported economic regeneration and social development initiatives.

Throughout his term as Principal, Fr Martin was a strong advocate of outreach and he enjoyed a highly collaborative working relationship with Dr Richard McMinn, Principal of Stranmillis University College. Together, they introduced a range of innovative joint study programmes between the two Colleges under the auspices of Diversity and Mutual Understanding.

Due to failing health, Fr Martin retired from the College in 2007 by which time he had overseen the refurbishment and extension of the Falls Road Campus, implemented academic diversification and had secured the status for St Mary’s of a University College of Queen’s University.

He is fondly remembered by a generation of students who attended St Mary’s because he clearly loved the place that he led. He had a keen interest in the student clubs and societies in the College and was a regular supporter at inter-university sports events involving St Mary’s teams.

Fr Martin’s vision and legacy live on in St Mary’s University College today.

We offer our condolences to his sister Regina (also a former member of the Religious Studies Department at St Mary’s), his brothers Gerard and Donny, and the wider family circle.

May Our Blessed Lady, Seat of Wisdom and patron of our College, intercede for him – and may he rest in peace.


Very Reverend Professor Martin O'Callaghan with St Mary's students
Very Reverend Professor Martin O'Callaghan photographed with staff and visitors of St Mary's
Very Reverend Professor Martin O'Callaghan at St Mary's prize giving event
St Mary's Staff Photograph 1999