Cardinal William Conway

Belfast born Primate of all Ireland, William Conway also founded the aid agency Trócaire

Born January 1913 at Dover St, north of Belfast city centre, William Conway rose to international eminence as a member of four Vatican congregations and a frequent speaker at the Second Vatican Council. His international position also saw him play an important role in the foundation of the Catholic development aid agency, Trócaire.

Conway was educated at Barrack Street Christian Brothers School, at Queen’s University and at Maynooth. Ordained in 1937, he spent the years between 1938 and 1941 at the Gregorian University in Rome, returning to Belfast to teach English and Latin at St Malachy’s College. Between 1942 and 1958 he held professorships in moral theology and canon law at Maynooth.

Conway was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland in 1963 and became Cardinal two years later. His Primacy saw the rise of the civil rights movement and the worst years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and he often spoke out on local social and political matters. A supporter of the civil rights movement, he was a critic of government policy in the North, particularly the policy of internment without trial.

Conway also resisted the notion that the conflict of the early 1970s constituted ‘a religious war’ and said of the increasing acts of violence ‘Nothing can cloud our cold clear condemnation of these deeds. To condone them in the slightest degree, even in thought, would be to become morally soiled oneself'.

Cardinal Conway died in Armagh in 1977.

Further Reading:
A Dictionary of Irish Biography (1998) by H Boylan; Dictionary of Ulster Biography (1993) by K Newman.