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Robinson makes belated tribute to Cardinal Daly

First Minister Peter Robinson accused critics of political opportunism as he finally released a statement paying tribute to the late Cardinal Cahal Daly — three days after the former Catholic Primate’s death.

The DUP leader moved to quell growing anger yesterday when he issued a strongly worded statement addressing his silence in the wake of the cardinal’s death on Thursday evening.

He said he had been out of circulation due to family issues following Dr Daly’s death.

The 368-word statement issued by the DUP’s press office began by accusing the media of “insensitive reporting indicative of the political baggage of those who make up such stories”.

It said Mr Robinson “deplored the attempt by a few elements in the press and politics to use the fact that he has been indisposed due to family issues to suggest that he had refused to release a statement on the sad passing of Cardinal Daly”.

“No statement, or suggestion to release a statement, was put to him by either OFMDFM (the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister) or the party.

The DUP issued a statement in the name of Mr Robinson's ministerial colleague, Arlene Foster, because they knew Mr Robinson was out of circulation,” it added.

The Belfast Telegraph made several attempts to contact Mr Robinson — through his party and OFMDFM — on Friday about whether he would be releasing a statement.

We were told by a Stormont press officer that it was a matter for the DUP. When we contacted a senior DUP press officer to ask specifically about Mr Robinson’s reaction to the death, he told us “he was not aware” of any planned words of tribute.

After Ms Foster’s statement was issued later that day, we contacted the DUP again to ask specifically about a statement from Mr Robinson and were told he would not be releasing anything that day.

The spokesman did not give any reason why Mr Robinson was not in a position to issue a statement.

Of the 368-word statement issued to the press yesterday, only the last 120 words pay tribute to the life and work of Cardinal Daly.

“I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincere sympathy to the family of the late Cardinal Cahal Daly at this particularly sad time,” he said.

“I am acutely aware of the high esteem with which Cardinal Daly was held by many throughout the community.

“Although I never met him I acknowledge that his contribution to the religious and civic life of Northern Ireland was immense and spanned a very bleak period in our history.

“He was consistent in his opposition to the use of violence to advance political objectives.

“Cardinal Daly’s passing has caused immense grief for many in the community who looked to him for spiritual and theological guidance and my thoughts are also with them at this time.”

The party used the first four paragraphs of the statement to criticise the press and politicians — and thank the public for their reaction since Mr Robinson’s wife, Strangford MP Iris Robinson, announced she would be stepping down from politics because of an on-going battle with depression.

“Mr Robinson was one of those who had been at the forefront of initiating contact between the DUP and the Roman Catholic Church and indeed met the present Cardinal along with the other church leaders just before the Christmas break,” the statement added.

A party spokesman said Mr Robinson would be last person to offend the late Cardinal's family friends and wider community.

Mr Robinson spoke out after former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon questioned why the DUP leader had not released a statement earlier, and said he believed he would have been contacted by the OFMDFM.

The First Minister was also criticised by former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames who said he was disappointed by the initial lack of a statement by Mr Robinson.

Belfast Telegraph

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