Mr Dermot Mc Govern, Principal of the Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, retired from his position on the 31st October 2017.

Mr McGovern, is one of the longest serving principal in the North having been appointed Headmaster in 1995.  Prior to that appointment ‘The Boss’ had been a member of the teaching staff for the previous eighteen years.

A past pupil of the Courtenay Hill site, Mr McGovern is a widely known and respected figure in academic circles throughout Ireland.    Among his many achievements during an illustrious career at the helm of the Abbey, Mr McGovern  was the first Principal to come from outside the Christian Brothers’ Congregation.


Dr Muredach Dynan
Chair of ERST Members Friday 27 October 2017 

First, I want to thank the celebrant Fr Murphy and Bishop John McAreavey, for enabling me to speak at this part of the Mass where the homily is normally preached. 

My name is Muredach Dynan. I am here as the Chairperson of the Trustees of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, a body of mainly volunteer personnel charged with the responsibility for ensuring the Catholic character of the former Christian Brothers Schools in Northern Ireland. The guiding principles for our work, and that of the school leadership team, are embedded in the Edmund Rice Charter. A summary of these principles is contained in this information brochure widely available to parents and all those interested in the work of our schools. You may be interested to know that there are over 100 Edmund Rice Schools in Ireland and many more around the five continents of our world today. Together they form the Edmund Rice Network. 

It was seven years ago in October that I spoke at the opening ceremony for the new Abbey CBS Grammar School – where did the years go! A whole generation of students have completed their studies in that time. Many of you were welcomed here on that occasion, by the rightly proud Principal of the new school, Mr Dermot McGovern. I note with pleasure that we have present today, Brother Edmund Garvey who formally opened the school, Brother Leo Kelly, who was Chair of the preceding Board of Governors which oversaw the planning of the new school, and Mr Sean Óg McAteer, current Chair of the Board of Governors. Bishop McAreavey presided over that ceremony also. May I say how grateful the Trustees are for the ongoing support each of you has given to Abbey Grammar School throughout many years. 

In October exactly 21 years ago , on the occasion of the beatification of Edmund Rice, Pope John Paul II said: 

‘Who will ever measure all the good that has come from the spiritual insight, warm heart and determined faith of Blessed Edmund Rice? Once more Ireland has given the Church and the world a striking testimony of complete fidelity to Christ…’ 

Catholic schools provide a powerful witness to a Christ-centred worldview in an increasingly secular society. The personal sacrifices of Edmund Rice and the many Christian Brothers, who left their own families in order to assist the young, mostly from the poorer segments of society, were nothing short of heroic. The Brothers came to Newry just after the famine. With minimum resources but strong Christian commitment, they helped raise many people of this area, generation after generation, from economic and social deprivation. They provided a shining light in a rather dismal world. I believe that, for the good of our people, this light must continue to shine out. Our collective task, Trustees, Governors, Principal and staff is to ensure that the Christian spirit of Edmund Rice is active and present now and into the future. This is no easy challenge in an era when young people are being snowed under by a blizzard of technological 

novelties, some less benign than others. And when a wave of aggressive secularism seeks to marginalise any religious-based perspective in the public domain. 

Research everywhere shows that crucial to the success of any school is the role of Principal. In that regard, Abbey Grammar has truly been blest over many years by the inspired leadership provided by Mr Dermot McGovern, who is retiring from that post this weekend. There will be opportunities at lunch for others to comment on his achievements as leader of this outstanding school community. I am privileged, on behalf of the Trustees to express our deep appreciation to Dermot for ensuring that the Edmund Rice spirit is infused into every aspect of the life and activities of staff and students of the school. This is evident to any observer and was demonstrated by the closing comments of the official report provided by the School Inspectors after a thorough inspection of this school. I quote: 

The leadership and management (of the school) are OUTSTANDING. 

“The highly effective and transformational leadership evident throughout the school is underpinned by a clear vision and distinct pupil-centred ethos which accords to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust Charter and is lived out on a daily basis.” (ETI Inspection Report 2013) 

Mr McGovern has, over the years, developed a team leadership approach among the staff, who deserve to be acknowledged today. The work of the staff goes way beyond the requirements of the curriculum. I would highlight one aspect which has enriched the life of students and whole school community, namely, the focus on Social Justice as a key Christian value. The Principal has played a significant international role in this regard, including attending a Conference of the Edmund Rice Network in South Africa focussing on social justice in developing countries. Staff and students, including Dermot, have travelled regularly on immersion programmes to Zambia – for many a life-changing experience . A group of staff have now developed a comprehensive plan called: ‘Abbey Social Justice’ which sets out the vision and action plan for social justice initiatives to be undertaken by students and staff of this school. The Spirit of Edmund Rice is alive and well in this place. 

As Edmund Rice said on one occasion to his Brothers; 

Have courage: the good seed will grow up in young people’s hearts later on. 

So, we give thanks to God today for the courage and vision of Mr Dermot McGovern, Principal extraordinaire of Abbey Grammar School. To Dermot, and to his ever-supportive wife, Pat, may I conclude by offering the Gaelic blessing, 

Go n-éiri an bóthar libh agus beannacht Dé oraibh i gcónaí!