In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy pays tribute to Mr George Darcy retired principal of Queen of the Universe N.S. in Bagenalstown.

February 29th, this year, marked the retirement for over 9,000 public sector workers. Men and women, who have made a significant contribution to health-care, policing, education and administration. Here in St. Andrews Parish, Bagenalstown, this occasion was marked with a deep sense of sadness and gratitude for a faithful public servant in the best sense of the word.  Mr George Darcy, Maple Drive, Bagenalstown has retired from his teaching profession, following 37 years of service. A packed church celebrating the occasion with George and his wife Maria, was indicative of the tremendous regard and appreciation that this man is held in our community. George passionately in his retirement address spoke of his love for this great town. George embodied all that is noble and wonderful regarding the teaching profession. His compassion and extraordinary sense of inclusivity has cultivated his school, The Queen of the Universe, N.S., to be recognised in a recent Whole School Inspection Report, as a “School of Excellence”. A team player, George’s leadership empowered staff and parents, in a cooperative spirit to always have the very best environment, where children’s needs come first and foremost.

Being a public servant is indeed a noble endeavour. In a time when austerity and cut-backs place extra responsibility and burdens for many who engage with front line services. I marvel at the generosity and extraordinary sense of vocation that define the lives of so many public servants at this time.

We all remember our teachers, for many different reasons. Mr. Darcy, will be remembered with tremendous fondness and affection. By generations of young people who have passed through his diligent, compassionate and extraordinary care. In his final retirement address given in St. Andrews, Bagenalstown, Mr Darcy made reference to a growing tension between government policy and the very essence of a ‘Catholic School Ethos’. He cautioned parents to be proud of such religious tradition and to earnestly embrace its values both now and in the future. Such values, are very much grounded in every school in our country. Values of inclusivity compassion and maintaining the best possible environment for young people to grow in their own unique giftedness.

I often think the question of Church – State relationships regarding education, is but a smoke screen, by our government, in order to detract attention from the horrific cut-backs that are taking place in every school at this time. These cut-backs,  are felt most by vulnerable children first. It is easy to discuss conceptual ideologies but much more difficult to justify why children are now being discriminated against by an educational system that no longer offers our most vulnerable, the best possible environment where they can grow and blossom.

There is in my opinion a tendency at this time for many people not to fully appreciate the enormous contribution that public servants make every day to all our lives.  I marvel at the spirit of generosity and utter dedication that so often goes well beyond the mere call of duty. I pray in thanksgiving for the example and wonderful contribution that Mr George Darcy and over 9,000 public servants, recently retired,  have given to our nation. As they begin a new chapter in their personal lives, I pray Gods health, long life and inner fulfilment will reward them for their valued assistance to all our lives.