Tributes have been paid by religious and political leaders following the death in Belfast of former Catholic Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Cahal Daly.
Dr Daly (92) died peacefully surrounded by his family and friends last night in hospital.
He had been admitted to the coronary intensive care unit at the City Hospital on Monday. The current head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said when fully assessed and appreciated, the legacy of Cardinal Cahal Daly to the ecclesiastical and civil history of Ireland “will be seen as immense”.
Cardinal Brady said: “He was firm and courageous in his absolute rejection of violence as a means of achieving political ends.
“A natural teacher, a consummate scholar, a kind friend and a faithful and holy priest, Cardinal Daly will be missed by those whose lives he graced.”
“Our country has lost one of its brightest lights and most able sons, who played a vital role in promoting reconciliation, peace and justice at a critical moment in our history.”
Cardinal Daly’s term in office was a period of history dominated by the violence of the Troubles.
He had served as Bishop in the Down and Connor area from the early 1980s, a diocese which includes Belfast, and he became closely associated with both religious and political matters.
The Co Antrim-born churchman was an outspoken critic of violence, and particularly of the activities of the IRA.
He took on the post of Catholic Primate at the age of 73 and was a surprise choice for the position, but became a prominent figure.
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Stafford Carson described Dr Daly as “an outstanding academic”, who played a major role in improving the relationship between Catholics and Protestants.
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“His Co Antrim roots, of which he was always proud, gave him a deep understanding of the essential part that Presbyterians have played in the history of our community, something he was always happy to explain to others.
“Completely and totally opposed to violence he was an outspoken critic of the armed campaign of the IRA and recognised that any future arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland had to involve unionist and nationalist, Protestant and Catholic, in order to create a community in which everyone could feel at home.”
A tribute from the Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Alan Harper, said Dr Daly gave courageous leadership.
“He was a fearless and forthright champion of peace and justice, always speaking out unambiguously on community issues during the darkest days of the Troubles.”
Meanwhile Secretary of State Shaun Woodward praised the wisdom he showed during the dark days of the Troubles.
“Through his service to God he truly helped create a better world in which we are able to live today.”
Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen described Cardinal Daly as a man of great intellect and humanity.
“Cardinal Daly was a trenchant supporter of peace,” he said.
“He was an outspoken critic of those who used violence to achieve political objectives.”