Tributes have been paid to the former Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly who died in Belfast aged 92.

He served as a bishop for almost three decades based first in Longford, then in Belfast and finally in Armagh.

He became the hierarchy's foremost theologian and its most trenchant critic of politically-inspired violence.

In 1996 when he turned 79, he resigned on age grounds and returned to writing and the study of philosophy.

As a child in North Antrim, Cahal Daly saw the IRA burn his home in an attack on police billeted next door.

Twenty years after ordination, the Queens University philosophy don became an advisor to the Second Vatican Council. At 50, he was made bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.

During the troubles, he emerged as Maynooth's most trenchant critic of politically-inspired violence. In 1979, he helped craft Pope John Paul's Drogheda appeal to the IRA to embrace peaceful methods.

He was promoted to his native Down and Connor shortly after the hunger strikes began boosting Sinn Fein's popularity.

Further promotion in 1990, to Armagh, saw the new Cardinal dogged by clerical child abuse scandals, beginning with the Fr Brendan Smyth case.

He responded that he had approved an approach to the RUC by a diocesan social worker about the sole allegation he had received against Smyth.

As the scandals multiplied, he said all Irish bishops were committed to immediately reporting allegations to the civil authorities. Months after guidelines to that effect were introduced, he resigned on age grounds.

He died believing that lasting peace was possible in Ireland.

Cardinal Daly is survived by his sister Rosaleen, his brother Paddy and sisters-in-law Barbara and Mavis, his nieces and nephews, and extended family.

Tributes paid to Cardinal Daly

Cardinal Seán Brady said Cardinal Daly died peacefully at the City Hospital in Belfast in the presence of family and friends.

He paid tribute to his predecessor, saying it was difficult to do full justice to the significance and achievements of his life, but his legacy to the ecclesiastical and civil history of Ireland will be seen as immense.

The Taoiseach has described Cardinal Daly as a man of great intellect and humanity.

In a statement issued tonight, Mr Cowen said: Cardinal Daly was a trenchant supporter of peace. He was a member of the New Ireland Forum and later the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. He was an outspoken critic of those who used violence to achieve political objectives’.

He said the Cardinal had used his influence in every way he could to bring about a a peaceful solution in Northern Ireland.

The President Mary McAleese said Cardinal Daly had a long and distinguished career and will be fondly remembered by many people on this island.

In a statement, she said he had shown immense courage in his efforts to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Northern Ireland and was deeply committed to inter church relations.

Mrs McAleese said he was an outstanding scholar and writer and maintained his academic interests right up to the time of his death.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Cardinal Daly strove tirelessly for peace and sanity in the midst of great turmoil.

The Church of Ireland Primate, Rev Alan Harper, expressed his deep regret, describing the late cardinal as a most distinguished scholar as well as an outstanding leader of the Roman Catholic people of Ireland.

The President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Donald P Ker, said Cardinal Daly was a man of strong principles coupled with a gentle Christian spirit.

He said that among the many things the late cardinal accomplished during his long ministry were the steps he undertook to improve understanding between the Christian
Churches on this Island.

Northern Ireland’s First Deputy Martin McGuinness said it was no secret that during the Troubles, Republicans and Cardinal Daly never enjoyed a close relationship, but he had met him on numerous occasions in recent years, in ‘friendly and warm encounters’.

The Sinn Féin MP said it was with genuine sadness that he learnt of the Cardinal’s death and extended his condolences to Cardinal Daly’s family, friends and colleagues.

Cardinal Daly's remains will arrive at Belfast's St Peter's Cathedral at noon on Saturday where they will repose. On Sunday at 5.30pm they will arrive at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh.

The funeral Mass will be at noon on Tuesday and he will be buried in the Cathedral grounds beside his three immediate predecessors; cardinals O'Fiach, Conway and d'Alton.