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EDITIONS
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:35 GMT
Profile: Cardinal William Conway
Cardinal William Conway
Cardinal William Conway was primate for 14 years
Cardinal William Conway was the first Belfast man to become head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Born in 1913, he grew up in Dover Street in the west of the city - an area which was split by a so-called peace wall in 1969 to keep fighting Protestants and Catholics apart.

In keeping with the religious hierarchy of the time, Cardinal Conway was a highly educated cleric. He completed his Doctorate in Canon Law at the Gregorian University, Rome in 1941.

Violence can make the road to justice much longer and leave it strewn with innocent lives

Cardinal Conway
He was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1963 and Cardinal two years later.

This was a time of change for the church but yet to come was a time of violent upheaval in Ireland.

The Troubles broke out in the late 60s and within a few years, more than 1,500 were dead as a result of the violence.

'Bloody Sunday funerals

The cardinal was unwilling to speak emotionally of the death toll in terms of how it affected him, but speaking in Drogheda in 1971, he said: "Violence can make the road to justice much longer and leave it strewn with innocent lives."

He officiated at the funerals of those killed on Bloody Sunday and other Catholic victims but it was known that he went to the homes of victims of all denominations.

Cardinal William Conway
The cardinal criticised Army interrogation methods
Unionist politicians criticised him for not sufficiently condemning the IRA.

At different times he called terrorists "monsters" and people who "offended the Majesty of God and dragged the fair name of Ireland into the mud".

Observers at the time said he denied the IRA the right to speak for Ireland and saw himself as the champion of Catholic interests.

He criticised the "brutal" interrogation methods used by the security forces and condemned the government for not doing enough to stop the "assassinations" of Catholics by loyalist paramilitaries.

Later the cardinal was involved in attempts to secure a permanent end to the violence and said it would be madness to try to bomb one million Protestants into a united Ireland.

When he died in 1977, political and church leaders paid tribute.

The then Northern Ireland Secretary, Roy Mason, said he had tried to build bridges between the communities and his quiet dignity and wise counsel distinguished him in times of great stress.

The reinvestigation of an atrocity

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