Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent host Declan Donnelly‘s brother has died after being rushed to hospital with a ‘mystery illness’.
Dermott Donnelly, a much loved Roman Catholic priest based in the family’s native north-east, was being treated at North Durham hospital after collapsing in his Newcastle parish.
It’s understood that Donnelly, 55, was ‘extremely unwell’ following the incident, with parishioners urged to pray for his wellbeing during their next congregation.
News of his death was confirmed in statement released on Friday afternoon by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, who wrote: ‘It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of Fr Dermott Donnelly who died peacefully this afternoon in hospital. This has come as a great shock to all of us.
‘Please pray for the repose of his soul and keep his family, especially his mother, in your prayers at this difficult time.
‘Funeral arrangements will follow when finalised. May he rest in peace.’
Tragic: Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent host Declan Donnelly ‘s brother has died after being rushed to hospital with a ‘mystery illness’
Rest in peace: News of his death was confirmed in statement released on Friday afternoon by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle
Donnelly was a regular visitor to his brother’s traditionally London based shows, while the presenter travelled to the north-east frequently to attend Mass and visit the youth projects which had been a labour of love for the priest since the 1990s.
Following his hospitalisation, a statement from Stanley, Dipton & Byermoor Catholic Parishes read: ‘Please pray for Father Dermott who is extremely unwell in hospital.
‘Tomorrow evening between 6pm-7pm there will be a period of time before the Blessed Sacrament so that we can come together as a community in St Joseph’s Church to pray for Father Dermott’s welfare.
‘Please be respectful to Father Dermott and his family at this difficult time, we will update you as and when we receive the most up to date information verified by the Diocese.’
A source told The Sun: ‘Dec arrived with other family members. There are around 12 of them there at the hospital. It was very sudden and everyone is just praying he pulls through.’
Support: Dermott was originally described as being ‘seriously ill’, with his congregation asked to pray for him following his hospitalisation (pictured left, with the Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle)
Donnelly had started out as a curate in Chester-le-Street until, two years later, he was asked by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle to set up a youth programme aimed at introducing disadvantaged youngsters to the Catholic Church.
He transformed the Youth Ministry Team into a thriving concern, and in 2010 launched the Global Youth Village Centre on a former holiday camp in County Durham.
Over a 30 years period he continued raising money for the youth ministry, building the Emmaus Youth Village and developing youth leaders across the world.
Speaking in 2015, Donnelly admitted his connection to household name Dec helped him cross the generational divide with young parishioners.
He said: ‘I don’t advertise that I’m Dec’s brother, but the kids always seem to know. It bridges the gap between me and them.’
Goodwill: As recently as April he visited outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where he prayed for peace in war-torn Ukraine
Pioneering: Donnelly had started out as a curate in Chester-le-Street until, two years later, he was asked by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle to set up a youth programme
As recently as April he visited outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where he joined religious leaders including His Excellency the Papal Nuncio and His Eminence the Cardinal and members of the hierarchy of Ukrainian church in the UK to pray for peace in war-torn Ukraine.
He said at the time: ‘It was a real privilege to join Christian leaders from across many churches at Downing Street and to stand together in prayer, the silence was so profound.
‘It was a moment when the power of vulnerability encountered the vulnerability of power. The best weapon we had was prayer.’
Close: Speaking in 2015, Donnelly admitted his connection to household name Dec (pictured) helped him cross the generational divide with young parishioners
Brothers: Dec had previously spoken about his close relationship with his brother (pictured together in 1995)
Dec is one of seven children, and was raised on Newcastle’s Cruddas Park estate with three brothers – Martin, Eamonn and Dermott – and three sisters – Camelia, Patricia and Moira.
The presenter once admitted to considering a career in the church before quickly realising it wasn’t for him.
He recalled: ‘Growing up was like The Waltons but in Newcastle. We all lived in a council house in Cruddas Park in the West End. The house had three bedrooms.
‘You don’t need to be a maths genius to work out that three bedrooms and nine people equals a bit of a squeeze.’
‘The four boys were in two sets of bunk beds in one room, the three girls were in another and my mam and dad had the third room.
‘My mam and dad, Anne and Alphonsus, came to Newcastle from Ireland in 1958.
‘You’d often find the Donnelly clan at the Tyneside Irish Centre on a Saturday night and that was where I had my earliest performing experiences.’
He added: Later on my brother Dermott trained to be a priest. When I was about 14 I did briefly consider following in his footsteps.
‘Then, one day, I got the bus home from school and it was full of lasses from the local girls’ school, Sacred Heart. I knew right there and then that the priesthood wasn’t for me.’
The millionaire presenter has been able to buy his mother a £600,000 house in the upmarket Darras Hall area of Ponteland, near Newcastle, where neighbours include former England football captain Alan Shearer.
MailOnline has contacted a representative for further comment.
Connection: Dermott is a regular visitor to his brother’s shows, while Declan travels to the North-East frequently to attend Mass and visit the youth projects which have been a labour of love for Dermott since the Nineties