The new Catholic Bishop of Killala is to be Monsignor John Fleming, the former Rector of the Irish College in Rome. A native of Ardpatrick in County Limerick, he succeeds 76-year-old Thomas Finnegan who is retiring after serving as Bishop since 1987.

There had been considerable controversy in North Mayo over the selection of the successor to the retiring Bishop. Local priests had campaigned for a greater say in the choosing of the new Bishop for the diocese.

As he arrived in Ballina this afternoon to meet the clergy of the diocese, the 53-year-old Bishop-elect told RTÉ News his initial reaction to his appointment was one of great surprise as he had been preparing to serve as a parish priest in Limerick City.

He had been appointed to St Mary's parish on 9 February, and two days later got a phone call from the Papal Nuncio to be told he was to be the Bishop of Killala. "It must", he said, "have been one of the shortest appointments in church history."

Msgr Fleming said he realised he was not the first choice of the priests of the diocese, and it might be the case that he did not have many of the qualities they deemed necessary in a Bishop. But he said he looked forward to meeting them, getting to know them, and working with them.

Much of the next year would be spent listening and learning of the needs of the diocese. Msgr Fleming said the question of appointing Bishops had often been a contentious one and he was now putting his trust in God and hoped he could be of service to the people.