Michael Paul Riordan, CFC (1789 – February 1862) was an early Christian Brother, and the second Superior General of this congregation from July 1838 until his death in 1862. He succeeded Edmund Ignatius Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers, to this role.
Riordan was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary in 1789, and unlike many Catholics at the time, was fortunate enough to gain an education at the local school. As a young man he found work in Cork as a counting-house clerk. Having acquired a knowledge of Continental languages, his work sent him on trips to France and Spain.
Riordan joined the Christian Brothers in Cork in 1822 as part of the 'North Monastery' community. He spent the next sixteen years in the North Monastery community. He was one of the first brothers who worked down on the Cork quays.
Edmund Rice, by 1838 aged 76 and in poor health, decided to step down from the superior-generalship. He wrote to the different communities calling for a General Chapter to elect a new superior-general. The Chapter, which opened on July 24, 1838, resulted in the election of Br. Paul Riordan as Rice's successor. This election was tightly contested and ultimately resolved in a way that put into question the validity of the voting.
At the request of Bishop John Polding of Sydney, Riordan sent Brothers Stephen Carroll, Peter Scannell and Francis Larkin to establish a community in Australia. However, despite developing a good reputation amongst the locals, this mission failed in March 1847. The Brothers were not to return to Australia's shores until 1868.
In contrast, Riordan's tenure as superior-general saw a great expansion of the Brothers' educational structure in Ireland.
Another issue that Riordan had to deal with was that of increasing corporal punishment in the Brothers' schools.
Riordan died in February 1862. Brother James Aloysius Hoare succeeded Riordan as superior-general.
Riordan is best remembered for his opposition to his congregation's founder, Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice. Several points of contention have been identified as a way of explaining the rivalry that clearly appeared between the two men. Riordan's disdain for Rice was only comparable to fellow North Monastery Brother Joseph Leonard, and he has been described as Rice's "staunchest critic".