Cardinal Cahal Daly

Cardinal Cahal Daly, who has died aged 92, will be remembered in equal parts as the man who brought the Catholic Church in Ireland to its highest point when Pope John Paul came to Ireland in 1979.

He will also be remembered as the man who oversaw the most rapid decline in the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland because of the pedophile crisis.

His success in bringing Pope John Paul II to Ireland was an astonishing feat. He was creating history, and an occasion that will never be forgotten. From the shrine at Knock to the open air event outside Drogheda to the mass at the Phoenix Park in Dublin, millions turned out and rediscovered their faith at a time when the modern era was bringing about slippage in mass-going numbers.

John Paul's speech at Drogheda pleading for peace in Northern Ireland was written by Daly and also was the first stirring of the peace process.

After that speech, one of Daly's priests, Father Alex Reid began the incredible task of putting together Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume together, thereby beginning the thread that became the tapestry of the Irish peace process.

However, the seeds of Daly's downfall were sown during that same papal visit. Among the two most prominent clerics meeting the pope were Father Michael Cleary who later was discovered to have had two children by his housekeeper, and Bishop Edward Casey who also fathered a child by an American woman, Annie Murphy.

Bad as those transgressions were, the pedophile scandal soon catapulted Daly into a much more unflattering light.

He had many dealings with the worst pedophile of all, Father Brendan Smyth, who brought down an Irish government and may play a role in the laying low of the Catholic Church.

Daly did not act decisively against Smyth, who was moved from parish to parish. He also did not head off the pedophile scandals in other parishes where he adopted a curiously hands off report.

Too late, he realized the damage but by that time it had run rampant through the church.

Daly died at the nadir of the church's influence in Ireland, with four bishops forced to resign in the latest chapter. Daly will be remembered as a transitional figure, the last primate of all Ireland who had the clout to have his doctrines unchallenged. He brought the pope and saved the church but may well have also sown the seeds of its downfall.