Cardinal Desmond Connell, the former Archbishop of Dublin criticised for his role in a Catholic church cover-up of child sex abuse, has died aged 90.
He had been ill for some time and passed away peacefully overnight in his sleep, the Dublin Archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday.
Born in the capital in 1926, Cardinal Connell was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland in 1988 - making him the most powerful church figure in the Irish Republic.
A noted Catholic theologian and academic for much of his career, his appointment surprised many and some thought he was not suited to the high-ranking public role.
But three years later, he was elevated again on being made the first Dublin-based Cardinal in 120 years by Pope John Paul II.
He remained Archbishop until 2004, by which time he was coming under growing pressure to resign over revelations about paedophile priests operating with impunity in the archdiocese.
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 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 a judge-led inquiry into church sex abuse 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.
The following year, the inquiry - known as the Murphy report - criticised his handling on child sex abuse allegations.
But he was credited with handing over the names of 17 suspected abusers to gardai.
His successor Archbishop Diarmuid Martin identified hundreds of complaints.
Cardinal Connell later 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.
Professor Moore McDowell, an economist who worked with Cardinal Connell during his time as an academic, said he was not the right person to lead the church in the Republic.
"He was reserved and kind and had fixed opinions," he told RTE radio.
"He was pre-Vatican II in his approach to theology and he was very shy.
"I'm sorry he has died. He had a long life and he lived it according to his own lights.
"He was not the right person for the job but he did his best."
But John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca), said Cardinal Connell will be remembered with anger by many victims.
"He died leaving many, many unanswered questions and the truth hasn't come out," he said.
"From the victims' perspective, they will be saying this guy died without facing justice and I think they will be quite angry.
"Some will say good riddance but I think more will regret that he didn't face justice.
"Why do we keep talking about sins? These were crimes that these priests committed and it was a crime to cover it up."
Enda Kenny said the late cardinal will be remembered for his humility and gentleness.
"Cardinal Connell had a long and distinguished academic career and while his time as Archbishop was controversial, those who knew him recognised his desire for holiness and his gentleness and humility of character," the Taoiseach said.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Cardinal Connell was a strong advocate for social justice and had highlighted the difficulties facing communities in inner-city Dublin.
"Throughout his life he dedicated great passion and commitment to the people of his diocese," he said.
"Dr Connell led the Dublin diocese at a very difficult time and recognised the need to allow younger generations to take-up leadership roles in the church."
Ireland's police colluded with the Catholic church in covering up clerical child abuse in Dublin on a huge scale, according to a damning report on decades of sex crimes committed by priests.
The devastating report on the sexual and physical abuse of children by the clergy in Ireland's capital from 1975 to 2004 accuses four former archbishops, a host of clergy and senior members of the Garda Síochána of a cover-up.
The three-volume report found that the "maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets" was more important than justice for the victims.
Four former archbishops in Dublin – John Charles McQuaid, who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan, who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara, who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell – were found to have failed to report their knowledge of child sexual abuse to the Garda from the 1960s to the 1980s. But the report added that all the archbishops of the diocese in the period were aware of complaints.
The report, launched by the Irish justice minister, Dermot Ahern, also concluded that the vast majority of priests turned a "blind eye" to abuse, although some individuals did bring complaints to superiors, which were not acted upon.
Rather than investigate complaints from children, gardai simply reported the matter to the Dublin Catholic diocese, the report says. The Garda Síochána is accused of connivance with the church in stifling at least one complaint of abuse and letting the alleged perpetrator flee the country.
The report states that senior clerical figures covered up the abuse over nearly 30 years and that the structures and rules of the church facilitated that cover-up. It says that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the church to be beyond the reach of the law.
The Murphy Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in Dublin identified 320 people who complained of child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. It also stated that since May 2004, 130 complaints against priests operating in the Dublin archdiocese had been made.
The report details the cases of 46 priests guilty of abuse as a representative sample of 102 priests within its remit. But it concludes that there was no evidence of an organised paedophile ring in the Dublin archdiocese, although it says there were worrying connections. One priest admitted abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had committed abuse every two weeks for more than 25 years.
The report highlights the case of a Father Carney and Father McCarthy who it claims in one case both abused the same child. The abuse by Carney often occurred at swimming pools, sometimes when he was accompanied by another priest.
Bill Carney was defrocked in 1992 after he was exposed as a ‘serial sex abuser’ who had targeted at least 32 youngsters.
The Irishman – convicted of indecent assault – became one of the most notorious offenders in the church’s history.
The report states that it was not until 1995 that the archdiocese began to notify civil authorities of complaints of abuse. The commission concludes that in the light of this and other facts, every bishop's primary loyalty was to the church itself.
A move by the archdiocese to take out insurance against potential compensation claims arising from abuse, according to the report, proved knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost.
The Garda Síochána's current commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, said the report made for "difficult and disturbing reading, detailing many instances of sexual abuse and failure … to protect victims."
Pope Benedict was urged today to go to Ireland and apologise for his clergy's behaviour.
John Kelly, of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said only a papal visit would exonerate the worldwide church in the abuse scandals.
Since June 1994, when paedophile priest Father Brendan Smith was sentenced to four years in prison for the abuse of children in Northern Ireland, there have been three major reports into the abuse of children at the hands of Ireland's Catholic clergy:
• October 2005 the Ferns report detailed extensive child abuse and the cover-up of paedophile activity in the south-east of Ireland.
• November 2005 Judge Yvonne Murphy was appointed to head a commission of investigation into clerical child abuse in the Dublin diocese, which concluded today.
• May 2009 the Ryan report detailing abuse at orphanages and industrial schools run by Catholic religious orders across the state was published.