State papers: Cahal Daly warned Catholics are ‘anti-everything'

Cardinal Cahal Daly
Cardinal Cahal Daly Cardinal Cahal Daly

WORKING-class Catholics in the mid-1980s were "anti-authority and anti-everything", Cahal Daly warned.

Secret files suggest the future head of the Catholic Church in Ireland blamed a deep scepticism among some of his flock on the SDLP.

In remarks made to a senior Irish government official in 1986, the then Bishop of Down and Connor claimed the party, at that time under John Hume, had made no serious effort to challenge Sinn Féin in Catholic ghettos.

The result was a wary response to the fledgling Anglo-Irish Agreement in areas such as west Belfast.

Gerry Adams was "the working-class hero" and the SDLP "count for nothing", he said.

Notes show Bishop Daly believed middle-class Catholics strongly supported the new agreement.

"In the working-class Catholic ghettos of west Belfast, however, where people are 'anti-establishment, anti-authority and anti-everything', the mood is one of deep scepticism," he said.

Bishop Daly - later made a Cardinal - "blames the SDLP for having made no serious effort in the past to penetrate west Belfast and to challenge Sinn Fein's monopoly there".

The Loughgiel-born cleric also took aim at unionist leaders for rising loyalist violence and sectarian murders.

"Bishop Daly blames the 'totally irresponsible' attitude of unionist politicians for much of this militancy," the notes state.

"There are moderate voices in the unionist camp but they 'cannot be heard about the din' (a metaphor which he applied also the SDLP in west Belfast)."

This had the effect of Catholics "in the ghettos" turning "all to easy to the Provos for their protection".

He also said there was considerable anger that then DUP leader Ian Paisley had managed to take control of the unionist community and made then UUP leader Jim Molyneaux "look like a small boy".