Robinson's gaffe sparks political row over tributes to Cardinal Daly
Published 03/01/2010 | 05:00
Hundreds of people lined the streets of west Belfast yesterday as the body of former Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Cahal Daly was brought to lie in state in the cathedral where he spent much of his career as a cardinal.
Mourners lined the area around St Peter's Cathedral on the Falls Road from before noon to await the arrival of the 92-year-old's body for the celebration of Mass.
Today, Dr Daly's remains will be brought to St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh where his funeral Mass will be held at noon on Tuesday.
Tributes have continued to pour in for the former primate who stepped down as archbishop in 1996 on his 79th birthday.
Many Protestants have paid tribute to the Catholic churchman who in his roles as a bishop and a cardinal lambasted the men of violence during decades of terrorism in the North.
But there has been strong criticism of the North's First Minister, Peter Robinson, whose offices declined to issue any statement of condolence following Cardinal Daly's death in the Belfast City Hospital on Thursday night from heart-related problems.
The Alliance Party's Sean Neeson, who was tutored by Dr Daly at Queen's University, said he was deeply disappointed that the DUP leader had not issued a statement.
"Because he is the First Minister, and representing the whole community, I am deeply disappointed that he has not recognised the contribution that Cardinal Cahal Daly has made to Northern Ireland," he said. Mr Neeson, a member of the Stormont Assembly, said Mr Robinson should have made a statement about a man who did so much to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
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Another Nationalist MLA, John Dallat, of the SDLP, said that Mr Robinson was "out of tune with the Catholic community but he is also out of tune with the vast majority of the Protestant community as well."
He added: "The fact that the First Minister will not issue a statement is, in reality, a statement in itself."
And Ulster Unionist MLA, David McNarry, said: "It's rather sad as First Minister and leader of the DUP that he could not even make a comment of condolence."
Mr Robinson, whose MP wife Iris announced last week that she was stepping down from politics because of health problems, was not available for comment.
But the DUP's Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, did issue a statement on behalf of the party sending her personal sympathy to Cardinal Daly's family.
"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," she said.
The North's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, acknowledged that republicans had not seen eye-to-eye with Dr Daly.
"It is no secret during the conflict that republicans and Cardinal Daly never enjoyed a close relationship. However, in the course of recent years, I met with him on numerous occasions, all of which were friendly encounters," he said.
Former British PM, Tony Blair, acknowledged Cardinal Daly's contribution to peace.