20th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Ó Fiaich

May 4, 2010

by Brónagh Murphy

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich who died suddenly on May 8th 1990 while on pilgrimage in Lourdes.

The sudden and unexpected death of the Catholic Primate, at the age of 66, shocked and saddened people throughout the country, but his passing was particularly felt in his native south Armagh.

Pilgrims from the area who had accompanied the Cardinal to Lourdes on that fateful pilgrimage, formed guards of honour as he lay in state in France.  On his repatriation, hundreds lined the streets from Dublin to Armagh to pay their respects while others queued for miles to visit his remains as he lay in state in Armagh Cathedral.

A native of Cullyhanna, the Cardinal was revered as a champion for Irish people.  He was a keen academic and noted Irish scholar, folklorist and historian, well known for his vociferous criticism of the British policy in the north.  During the Long Kesh Hunger Strikes of 1980 and ‘81,  Ó Fiaich was an influential supporter of the Hunger Strikers and showed deep concern for the treatment of political prisoners.