In Memory of Pat Diggins
Diggins Patrick (Pat), Portmarnock and formerly of Milltown, Co. Galway and late of the Drumcondra Education Centre. 25th August 2021.
Pat Diggins bestrode the landscape of leadership and continuing professional development in Irish education like a colossus for a quarter of a century. He served as Director of Drumcondra Education Centre between 1978 and 2003 but his influence strayed well beyond the confines of north Dublin. His legacy is lived and his influence felt not only in education centres and schools and places of teaching and learning throughout Ireland but also in education circles across Europe.
Pat dreamed of processes in education that did not exist and asked ‘why not’. He innovated at the periphery knowing that in time the establishment would need to bring his ideas to the centre of the stage. His groundbreaking work in school planning, subsequently a sine qua non for the establishment is just one example of his ingenuity.
His forging of links with Trinity College in Dublin was a model that has seen thousands of Irish teachers advance their careers while working through their education centres with universities in Ireland and beyond.
Pat introduced generations of Irish educators to the great international educational thinkers, theorists and authors of the day. Irish teachers, principals and educators lunched with Starratt, Fink, Hargreaves and other international educational leaders in Drumcondra long before such authors became frequent visitors here. In truth Pat operated at similar or higher levels than the foremost educational leaders of the era. He made his own contribution on international stages through the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) and the European Network for Improving Research and Development in Educational Leadership and Management (ENIRDELM) where his voice was heard and was appreciated.
Pat was a visionary and a great enabler. He inspired, mentored and supported countless educators, not only in the corridors of Drumcondra Education Centre and Trinity College, where his contribution was outstanding, but also in educational institutions throughout the cities, towns and villages of Ireland. Like another great Irish educator, Bryan McMahon, Pat “planted seeds that would fructify later” in many Irish educators; seeds that blossomed in many of the new education centres in the 1990s as the national network expanded. They blossomed also in principals and deputy principals in a large number of primary and post primary schools and in key educational professionals in a multitude of other roles. Like Christopher Logue he challenged thousands of teachers to “come to the edge and fly”.
The notion of partnership in Irish education is accepted today. However long before partnership became fashionable in Irish education Pat Diggins worked with and won the confidence of teachers and principals, school management and parents’ bodies, teacher unions and the Department of Education. He was accustomed to reminding each group of the needs and potential contributions of the others.
Pat was and he would like to be seen as Starratt’s ‘Socratic gadfly’, irritating, probing, niggling, instigating, exploring, hypothesising, emboldening and ultimately steering the establishment towards innovative and modern ways of leading in education. He was a great exemplar of Starratt’s attributes of excellence: alertness, high standards, caring relationships, lofty ideals, supporting excellence. Moreover he was conscious of Gardner’s advice, “It’s not enough to espouse high standards in excellence; to live up to them and to help others to do the same requires an ethical cast of mind that lets you practise your principles consistently”. Pat Diggins’s professional principles epitomised high and excellent standards, he helped others and he practised his principles consistently during a long and distinguished career
Go ndéana Dia grásta ar a anam dílis.