The 92-year-old senior cleric had been admitted to Belfast City Hospital earlier this week having suffered heart problems.
President Mary McAleese said last night: “Cardinal Cahal Daly will be fondly remembered by many people on this island. He showed immense courage in his efforts to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.”
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the late Cardinal was a man of great intellect and humanity.
As “a trenchant supporter of peace” he was a fearless and outspoken critic of “those who used violence to achieve political objectives”, the Taoiseach said.
Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, said the country had lost one of its brightest lights and most able sons.
“It is difficult to do full justice to the significance and achievements of his long, full and happy life but I believe, when fully assessed and appreciated, the legacy of Cardinal Cahal Daly to the ecclesiastical and civil history of Ireland will be seen as immense,” he said.
Cahal Daly was born in 1917 and was ordained as a priest in 1941. He was appointed Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise in 1967 and installed as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate in 1990. A year later he was created Cardinal.
Cardinal Daly was highly regarded for his work with Irish bishops on the New Ireland Forum in the 1980s and leading a delegation on the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in the ’90s.
The Co Antrim-born churchman was one of the most outspoken critics of the IRA’s terrorist campaign.
The hierarchy’s foremost theologian, he served as a bishop for almost three decades in Longford, then in Belfast and in Armagh.
In 1996, at the age of 79, he resigned on age grounds and returned to writing and the study of philosophy.