Maynooth honours MacGréil SJ’s moral compass

March 28, 2024 in Featured News, News

Irish Jesuit Socius Terry Howard SJ, Bill Toner SJ and John O’Keffe SJ were among those who gathered to honour the memory of well-known Jesuit Micheál MacGréil at an event organised by the Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute, the Department of Sociology Maynooth and Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

The many participants celebrated Micheál MacGréil SJ and his life’s work with a festival of events this March 2024. A packed audience gathered for the official opening at Maynooth University, a seminar based on Micheál’s seminal work Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland. Micheál was a member of the Department of Sociology at Maynooth University from 1971 to 1996, and contributors remembered him as a gifted teacher and an outstanding researcher. He was a pioneering advocate of empirical social science research, his path-breaking sociological inquiries into prejudice and tolerance in Irish society spanned several decades.

Attendees heard how throughout his career as a sociologist and a Jesuit priest, Micheál, who died in January 2023, shone a bright light into the corners of Irish society where intolerance and lack of compassion for others prevailed. He called out inequalities and injustices wherever he encountered them. His moral compass remained resolute throughout his long and productive life working assiduously to build a more solidaristic, empathic and fairer Ireland. The seminar was chaired by Mary P. Corcoran, Professor of Sociology, Maynooth University

Feíle Mac Gréil festival programme of events ran as follows:

On Thursday 7 March, as part of Social Justice Week in Maynooth University the ‘Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland’ seminar (mentioned above) kick-started proceedings. Professor of Sociology at Maynooth, Jane Gray, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at UCD, Tony Fahey, Martin Collins, Pavee Point and Niamh McDonald, from the Hope and Courage Collective, all spoke. Professor Gray spoke about Micheal’s pioneering approach to social scientific inquiry.

Tony Fahey recalled his former teacher and colleague, Micheál with admiration as he explored Micheal’s role in the context of the Catholic social justice movement in Ireland since the 1960s.

Martin Collins is a founding member of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre. He addressed Micheál’s relationship with Travellers, the impact of prejudice and tolerance on Travellers, the mobilisation and politicisation of Travellers in Ireland, and the situation of Travellers today.

Niamh McDonald spoke about how prejudice and intolerance manifest in Irish society today in the context of emergent fascist/far-right groups. In particular, she focused on the creation of a narrative of ‘the other’ that includes people seeking asylum, Irish people of colour, Irish minoritized groups, and LGBTQIA+ persons. The motivation underlying this process of othering is to grow hate and division in society, she said.

Micheál was above all a Mayo man and his work to promote Westport and the West was also marked by events in the county. In the Mayo Campus, Castlebar, Prof Mary P. Corcoran, MU, offered a reflection entitled,’ Remembering Micheál: colleague, academic and social justice activist.’ This was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Dr. Deirdre Garvey, ATU, with panel members, Dr Mark Garavan and Dr Eoghan Murphy ATU, and Mayo Intercultural Action/Leader and Professor Emeritus Paddy Duffy, Maynooth University.

Terry Howard SJ, along with former Jesuit Conall O’Quinn, and the poet Mary Madec, attended a locally organised event in Westport in honour of Micheál. Mass was held at 10 am in St Mary’s Church. It was followed by a reflection from his friend Éamon Ó Cuív TD in the Town Hall. There were also inputs from Colm O’ Raghallaigh (Western Railway Corridor), Catherine O’Grady Power (Westport Tourism), Michael Smyth (Forsa-Trade Unions), and Neil Sheridan (Mayo County Council). Charlie Keating sang in memory of Mícheál, and a poem by Ger Reidy was read. Finally, people gathered to pass by Mícheál’s cottage in Loughloon (see cover photo) and before visiting his grave to pay their respects.