First Minister Peter Robinson is under fire after he failed to issue a statement on the death of Cardinal Cahal Daly.
The much respected 92-year-old former Catholic primate, who died earlier this week, was renowned for his work towards peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and for the hardline attitude he adopted towards the IRA, as well as the hand of friendship he extended to the Protestant community.
But last night the DUP was refusing to make any public statement on behalf of the First Minister following Dr Daly’s death in Belfast City Hospital on New Year’s Eve.
In contrast, a string of Protestant clergymen have been paying tribute to the former Catholic Primate of Ireland who was instrumental in the peace process.
They include Presbyterian Moderator Stafford Carson, The Reverend Donald Kerr, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland and Church of Ireland Primate Alan Harper.
Public representatives have indicated that as Northern Ireland’s leading politician, representing the whole community, the First Minister should have made a public statement on the death of such a high-profile figure.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted both the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the DUP to inquire about a statement from Mr Robinson.
A spokeswoman for the OFMDFM said it was not a matter for the department.
A DUP spokesman, after taking a number of calls from this office, instead issued a statement on behalf of DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.
It said: “I send my sincere sympathy to Cardinal Daly's family circle at this time of grief.
“Whilst I had many differences with the cardinal in both political and theological matters, I pay tribute to his consistent opposition to the use of violence.
“His passing has undoubtedly left many within the Roman Catholic community and beyond deeply saddened and we recognise their immense grief at this time.”
However, the absence of any public words from the First Minister has angered both nationalist and unionist politicians. Alliance MLA Sean Neeson, who was tutored by Dr Daly at Queen’s, said: “Because he is the First Minister and representing the whole community I am deeply disappointed that he has not recognised the contribution that Cardinal Daly has made to Northern Ireland.
“Peter Robinson is the First Minister and represents all the people and as such he should have made a statement about a man who did so much to bring peace to Northern Ireland.”
Ulster Unionist MLA David McNarry said: “It’s rather sad as First Minister and leader of the DUP he could not even make a comment of condolence.
SDLP MLA John Dallat said: “Not only is Peter Robinson out of tune with the Catholic community but he is also out of tune with the vast majority of the Protestant community as well.
“The fact that the First Minister will not issue a statement is in reality a statement in itself.”
Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy, speaking on behalf of his party, said: “Whilst unionists would have had profound political differences with the cardinal, we always respected him as a man of integrity and immense standing within his church.
“He was a man of outstanding intellect on theological matters and he took a courageous stand against the violence of the IRA during the Troubles.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among the first politicians to pay tribute to Dr Daly, alongside former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.
1972: Cardinal Daly spoke about the impossibility of coercing nearly a million Northern Ireland unionists into a united Ireland.
1974: he said there was “probably no greater factor of de-Christianisation at work in Ireland than the continuing violence''.
1976: with the late Rev Eric Gallagher, Cardinal Daly produced the report Violence in Ireland.
1979: he wrote an open letter to Northern Protestants .
1984: at a meeting of the New Ireland Forum he said that the hierarchy would oppose constitutional proposals which might endanger the civil and religious rights of northern Protestants.