Cleric who was proud of his Irish roots
"HE was somebody we were all proud of – a leader, an achiever."
The words of a resident of the small coastal town in which Cardinal Keith O'Brien grew up. Cardinal O'Brien left Ballycastle, Co Antrim, situated in the heart of the Causeway Coast, as an 11-year-old boy.
Little did his friends and neighbours know he would go on to become the most senior Catholic cleric in the UK.
He moved to Scotland with his family when his father – a member of the Royal Navy – was transferred in 1949.
But some 64 years later, locals yesterday spoke fondly of the "affable", "engaging" and "warm" clergyman who, they said, never forgot his roots.
"Mr O'Brien's achievements were something the people of Ballycastle were quite proud of," said Donal Cunningham, a local SDLP councillor.
"He regarded himself as a Ballycastle man and he was happy to call himself that, and was very proud (to be) Irish."
He became a cardinal in 2003 and became prominent for his defence of conservative Catholic teaching.
His opposition to gay marriage earned him the 'Bigot of the Year' award from the gay rights group Stonewall last year. But just last Friday, he surprised commentators by backing an end to the celibacy rule.