Roman Catholic Cardinal Cahal Daly, a philosopher who led the church in Ireland during some of the worst years of IRA violence, has died at the age of 92, the church announced Thursday night.
Tributes poured in from throughout Ireland and neighboring Britain to the charm and formidable intellect of Daly. The elfin, razor-sharp County Antrim native was best known as a trenchant critic of the Irish Republican Army, the illegal paramilitary group rooted in Catholic areas that long sought to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
Daly served as bishop of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast, from 1982 to 1990 and frequently used that pulpit to denounce the killings and policies of the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party.
Daly was widely credited with writing the key speech delivered by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ireland in 1979, when the pontiff appealed to the IRA to end its campaign. The underground army finally called a cease-fire in 1994, broke it in 1996, then restored it for good a year later.
"It's plainly contradictory for the IRA to be committed to violence as a way forward, and for Sinn Fein simultaneously to claim they are committed to the peace process," Daly said in 1996. "And it would be insane to plunge this country again into the madness and agony of the last 25 years from which we so recently escaped."
In 1990 Daly was appointed archbishop of Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, from where he served as the church's leader in both parts of Ireland. He was elevated to cardinal in 1991 and retired in 1996, but continued to write prolifically about ethics, ecumenism and the threat of climate change.
His successor in Armagh, Archbishop Sean Brady, said family and friends surrounded Daly as he passed away Thursday in Belfast's City Hospital four days after admission for heart problems.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen praised Daly as "a man of great intellect and humanity" who "gave strong backing to the emerging peace process in Northern Ireland and determinedly used his influence in every way he could to bring about a peaceful solution."
The leader of the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland, Presbyterian moderator Stafford Carson, said Daly improved relations and cooperation between the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of society.
He said Daly displayed rare sensitivity to Protestant fears and "a deep understanding of the essential part that Presbyterians have played in the history of our community."
And former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who helped to negotiate Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace accord of 1998, said Daly "made a significant contribution to delivering peace as he worked to break down barriers between communities."
"His life is a real and lasting example of effective religious leadership working to build peace and resolve conflict in the most challenging of circumstances," Blair said.
The church said Daly would be buried Tuesday in Armagh, southwest of Belfast, alongside his three predecessors as the Catholic primate of all Ireland.