A PRIEST who quit the Church after falling in love has married a mother of one in a civil ceremony.
Ian Kennedy (42) stunned the people of Ballinafad, Co Sligo, last Christmas after quitting the priesthood.
Now he has gone one step further by tying the knot with girlfriend Maria Cunningham (41).
He wed childhood friend Maria at a luxury spa hotel in Sligo last Wednesday, a few miles from the parish he once served. His new wife has a nine-month-old baby boy.
Friends say Mr Kennedy said "I do" in front of a handful of friends at Cromleach Lodge Spa Hotel.
The happy couple then hosted an informal lunch before spending two nights at the hotel, overlooking Lough Arrow, before returning to the home they share in the tiny hamlet of Ballinacarrow.
The new Mrs Kennedy's young son was born last December at Sligo General Hospital.
Mr Kennedy stood down from his ministry at Ballinafad a few weeks later.
The simple civic ceremony was performed by Louise Mulchahy, a registered solemniser with the HSE in Sligo.
"It was very intimate and very private," said a friend, "Ian and Maria didn't want any fuss."
Witnesses at the ceremony included Sean Tansy, a close friend of Mr Kennedy and a schoolteacher from Boyle, Co Roscommon, and the bride's sister Noelle O'Carroll.
Mr Kennedy has become a teacher since leaving the priesthood. His new wife works as a civil servant with the Department of Social Welfare.
Neighbours refused to talk about the couple, with one only saying: "They are very private people and keep themselves to themselves."
Former parishioners in the village of Ballinafad said they were delighted he had found love.
"They make a lovely couple," one mother added.
The bride and groom first met as children in Cartron, Sligo Town, where they grew up.