No new Irish cardinal until at least 2019

Likely that Ireland will not see appointment of new cardinal until at least 2019, when Dr Brady turns 80

Ireland is unlikely to see the appointment of a new cardinal until at least 2019. However, changed patterns under Pope Francis could put the tradition of the Archbishop of Armagh being a cardinal in jeopardy.

Pope Francis named his second batch of cardinals at the weekend, including 15 under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a Papal election.

The Pope also appointed five so-called ‘honourary’ cardinals who are over the age of 80 and therefore, ineligible to elect a future Pontiff.

While Armagh’s Cardinal Seán Brady retired in August last year, he continues to be a cardinal-elector and eligible to serve on bodies of the Roman Curia until his 80th birthday in 2019. While retired Archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell, who turns 89 in March, is no longer eligible to vote, he remains an active member of the College of Cardinals.

It was always considered unlikely that the Pope would choose either Archbishop Eamon Martin in Armagh or Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in Dublin in this consistory since it would be unprecedented for such a small country to have two voting cardinals.

However, Pope Francis has appointed a number of new cardinals from dioceses that have not previously had a ‘red hat’ indicating that the Pontiff may be moving away from the tradition of the cardinalate being automatically associated with a particular see.

Ireland did briefly have three cardinals from Dr Brady’s appointment in 2007 until the death of Dr Cahal Daly in 2009. However, only Cardinal Brady was under 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.

It is now considered likely that Ireland will not see the appointment of a new cardinal until at least 2019 when Dr Brady turns 80. At this point, Diarmuid Martin will be 74 and a year from retirement as Archbishop of Dublin, and Archbishop Martin in Armagh will be 58 years old and therefore considered a likely candidate in the Pope continues the tradition of the Primate of All-Ireland being a cardinal.

With the exception of Cardinal Paul Cullen, who as Archbishop of Dublin was appointed a cardinal in 1866, all Irish cardinals have been archbishops of Armagh until Desmond Connell’s elevation to the College of Cardinals in 2001. The red hat returned to Armagh in 2007, fuelling speculation that the Holy See may consider rotating the cardinalate between Armagh and Dublin in the future.