As the chairman of the Education Commission of the Bishops' Conference, the 64-year-old prelate is their friendly but tough negotiator with the Government on the biggest re-shaping of the education system since the foundation of the State.
In a hard-hitting address earlier this month to the Parnell Summer School, Bishop O'Reilly made the headlines when he unexpectedly threw down a "no surrender" gauntlet to the Department of Education with a stern warning that the bishops' time-honoured management role in Catholic schooling will not be dumped into the dustbin of history.
Blaming the department's lack of forward planning for contributing to enrolment chaos in some schools, he followed this up with an attack on Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe for not publishing details of future lease agreements governing new schools.
A former teacher at St Patrick's College in Cavan, Bishop O'Reilly has established a reputation for being outspoken in articulating the Catholic Church's determination to retain its place in the primary sector, where it has traditionally owned and managed 90pc of national schools in trust for parents.
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