Robin Eames’ elevation to Archbishop of Armagh caused consternation among his Catholic counterparts – who thought he was a “cold fish”, newly declassified Irish state papers reveal.
In a meeting between then-Cardinal Tomas O Fiach and an Irish government official in 1986, the Catholic Church leader let it be known he was less than enthusiastic about his new ecclesiastical neighbour.
“Eames, whom he has known for years, has a poor ecumenical record and, at the personal level, is something of a ‘cold fish’,” the official reported being told by Cardinal O Fiach in a missive to the Taoiseach’s office.
The Catholic leader indicated he would have preferred then Bishop of Derry and Raphoe James Mehaffey to take up his opposite number in Armagh.
Lord Eames was active in Ulster Unionist circles, said Cardinal O Fiach, but he remarked he would keep an “open mind” about him as he appeared constructive about the recently signed Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Separately, then-Bishop Cathal Daly – who went on to become Catholic Archbishop of Armagh – also confided in an Irish official in February 1986 that he had his doubts about the new Anglican leader.
“From his time as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Eames does not have a good record as an ecumenist and in private conversation his unionist views emerge quite clearly,” Bishop Daly said, according to a note of the meeting.
The bishop hoped that Eames’ responsibility for the Church of Ireland on both sides of the border “will cause him to offer more balanced views in future than his form to date would suggest”.
“He is not certain, however, that Eames will emulate the ecumenical standards set by (Archbishop John) Armstrong in Armagh.”