Updated: 21/02/17 : 12:46:34
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Former Archbishop of Dublin dies overnight

Cardinal Desmond Connell, former Archbishop of Dublin, has died aged 90, it has been announced.

In a statement, the Dublin Archdiocese said the former Catholic church leader had been ill for some time.

"Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that Cardinal Connell, who had been ill for some time, passed away peacefully during the night in his sleep," a spokeswoman added.

Born in 1926, Cardinal Connell was Archbishop of Dublin from to 1988 until 2004.

In 2009, he asked for forgiveness from child sex abuse victims who suffered at the hands of paedophile priests under his control.

The senior cleric said at the time he was distressed and bewildered that those in such a sacred position could be responsible for the heinous crimes.

The church leader was among four Archbishops criticised for not handing over information to authorities on abusers in a major investigation into clerical sex abuse.

The Dublin-born cleric was ordained by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who was also criticised in the inquiry into clerical child abuse in the archdiocese.

When appointed by Rome he also held the title of primate of Ireland and within three years was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

Although he claimed he was appalled at the scale of abuse when he took office, he appeared slow to address the issue, opting for secret internal church tribunals to defrock abusive priests rather than potentially explosive public prosecutions.

In 1995 the Archbishop finally handed over the names of 17 suspected abusers to gardai.

His successor Archbishop Diarmuid Martin identified hundreds of complaints.

In 2008, Cardinal Connell caused outrage and narrowly avoided a damaging public row with his successor when he mounted a High Court challenge to try to block the inquiry having access to 5,500 files on priests and abuse allegations.

He claimed legal privilege and secured a temporary injunction before withdrawing the legal action two weeks later.