The parish of St Senan, Shannon grew out of Ireland’s first new town, built to serve workers in Shannon International Airport and the industrial estate growing around it. The development of a town in an isolated rural area was a major culture shock for both the newly arrived residents and the indigenous locals. As the enterprise expanded around the airport, stewarded by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, the need for a new parish became apparent. And so, between the years 1945 and 1988, under the leadership of the first three parish priests, a confident parish community that was prepared to take responsibility for its own affairs was finally achieved.
Much work had to be done in the new parish against a background of internal upheaval in the Catholic Church following Vatican II; and in encouraging people to develop a sense of community around it, despite the continuous complaints about lack of facilities.
The lack of a legislative framework for the new town, at the central government level, put enormous pressure on the new parish. The provision of adequate primary school facilities for the rapidly growing young population was so difficult that the parish priest, with the approval of the bishop, refused to take responsibility for the management of the third primary school for Catholic pupils until it was provided with a loan from the central government.
The story illustrates the often enormous problems faced by the early parishioners it details their struggle to develop community structures despite the inability of central government departures to collaborate effectively on what was a multi-dimensional national initiative. The present-day parish is no doubt a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the people and their priests.
Dr Diarmaid Ó Donnabháin was born in Castletownsend, County Cork. He was educated at the local primary school and at St Fachtna’s High School, Skibbereen before going on to St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, University College, Cork and the University of Bath. He worked as a primary and secondary teacher at Cobh and Cork before being appointed as the first principal of St Patrick’s Comprehensive school, Shannon in 1966. He was responsible for founding Shannon Curriculum Development Centre, which was officially opened by the Minister for Education in May 1976. On his retirement as principal of St Patrick’s in 1992, he was appointed Adjunct Professor Curriculum Development at University of Limerick. In the same year, he was presented with the papal Benemerenti medal in recognition of his service to the Church in Shannon.