Dara Molloy was born in 1949. His mother is Evelyn Ryan, from Lanesboro, Co. Longford. His father is John Molloy from Sandymount, Co. Dublin. He is the second of seven children, five boys and two girls. His older sister, Dearbhla Molloy, is a well-known actor. The family home is on Yellow Walls Road, Malahide, Co. Dublin. This house was built for the family just after the Second World War.
Dara went to school at Yellow Walls National School for two years, then Scoil Colmcille, at the Central Model Schools in Marlborough Street Dublin until the age of 11. This school taught everything through Irish. He attended secondary school at Chanel College, Coolock, run by the Marist Fathers, and did his Leaving Certificate Examination in 1966.
After a year working with an engineering firm, BKS, in Balgriffin, Dublin, Dara joined the novitiate of the Marist Fathers, in Milltown, Dublin in 1967. He spent nine years of study there which included obtaining an Honours Degree in Psychology and Computer Science at UCD in 1974. He spent the last year of his study of theology in Rome, where he attended the Angelicum University.
While living at the seminary in Milltown, Dara became involved in local community development, becoming leader of the Marist Youth Club, co-founding the Milltown-Clonskeagh Action Group, and running creative drama workshops, musical productions and summer youth programmes. This activity included the purchase of a double decker bus from CIE which was used for youth club and parish day-trips, mobile drama productions, fund-raising, and even live-in holidays.
He was ordained a priest in the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) in 1977. After ordination, he worked as a teacher and school chaplain in St Mary's College, Dundalk, until 1983. While in Dundalk, he became a leader in the charismatic prayer movement in the town and worked especially with young people in the area of prayer groups, liturgy, and choirs. During this time, he also directed a musical production by young people in the town hall.
Subsequently, he was based at the Marist Retreat House, St Doolagh's Park, Balgriffin, Dublin where, for eighteen months, he worked on a team giving school and adult retreats.
In 1983, as a result of his experience working in schools, Dara became outspoken against the Irish education system. He became well-known for his picketing of the Department of Education and the Dáil at examination times. He has had published many articles and letters on the subject of education. In February 2004, he submitted a paper to Minister Noel Dempsey in response to a public invitation from the Minister.
Since 1985 Dara has lived as a Celtic monk on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. His life on the island began as a hermit in a small traditional cottage in Eochaill village, which he named An Charraig. The cottage is next to Eochaill church. Within the first year, a number of people had come to live with him and join in the project. This became a pattern which continued for many years. Dara did not wish to create an institutionalised community, and so people were encouraged to stay with him for a time and then to move on or create their own project. A significant number of people have settled on Inis Mór and integrated into the local community in this way.
In 1987 he and others set up a non-profit company called Aisling Árann, and through this company they purchased Killeany Lodge. This was an old building on 1 acre of land. The building was purchased to accommodate the growing number of visitors to An Charraig. This building has been renovated and remains a house of hospitality.
In 1989, The AISLING Magazine was founded by Dara Molloy and Tess Harper. This began as a quarterly magazine reflecting the new thinking around spirituality, church, economics, lifestyle, and the environment. Its three defining principles were to be rooted in the Celtic, living in right relationship, and working for transformation. Since 1989, 31 paper issues have been published, all of which were printed at An Charraig on an offset printing press. In the beginning of 2005, the magazine became on-line only and ceased being published on paper. It only produced two online issues before ceasing publication altogether.
Through his education campaign, Dara got to know the philosopher Ivan Illich. In 1989, he brought Ivan Illich to Dublin, where he gave a public lecture in Trinity College. Ivan Illich became a friend, visiting Ireland again on a number of occasions. At this time, Dara also became involved with a Europe-wide grassroots organisation Kairos Europa, founded by German theologian Ulrich Duchrow.
From 1985 to 1996 Dara, while living as a Celtic monk on Inis Mór, remained a Marist priest and gave assistance to the local parish clergy when required. However, in 1996 he announced his departure from the Marist Fathers and Roman Catholicism. He also announced that he was remaining a priest and would continue to conduct services in the Celtic tradition. This created quite an amount of national publicity at the time.
Having left the Roman Catholic priesthood, Dara married Tess Harper and they now have four children. Together in the mid-1990s they created a Celtic spiritual centre, or aistir, called An Charraig. This is a complex of buildings which they built themselves with the help of many friends and volunteers. At this centre they conducted spiritual ceremonies, published The AISLING Magazine and other publications, hosted pilgrim, study and tour groups, coordinated an all-island organic growing project, ran a volunteer/internship programme, and welcomed guests. Their project reflected many of the key elements of a traditional Celtic monastery. The internship programme finished in 2011 and with it the guest facilities. The AISLING Magazine ceased publication in 2005.
On Inis Mór, Dara helped to found Comharchumann Forbartha Árann in 1990 and remained an active committee member until 2011. The work of the comharchumann has brought about major ongoing improvements on the island.
In 2012, Dara co-founded Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann and Aran Islands Renewable Energy. See www.foacc.com/blog and www.facebook.com/AranIslandsenergy. These are organisations with a community base which promote sustainability, energy efficiency, energy generation and new employment on the three islands. The current objective is to have the Aran Islands carbon neutral by 2022.
Dara earns his living performing Celtic spiritual ceremonies, especially weddings, acting as guide to pilgrim groups visiting the island, and from his writings. His publications include Legends In The Landscape, a guide book to Inis Mór, which is now available in six languages, and The Globalisation of God, Celtic Christianity's Nemesis. This latter work is the result of Dara's lifelong interest in Celtic spirituality and Celtic monasticism.
Updates on Dara's writings, interests and work can be found on the following Facebook pages as well as on his Facebook home page: