BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND, NOV. 6 -- The Roman Catholic Church named Bishop Cahal B. Daly, a fierce critic of the IRA and other guerrilla groups, as primate of Ireland today, a move that is likely to draw fire from Catholic militants, who view him as an apologist for British rule in Northern Ireland.

Pope John Paul II appointed Daly as archbishop of Armagh and primate of All-Ireland, a post that makes Daly spiritual leader of 3.7 million Catholics in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army and other Catholic militants are fighting to have predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland removed from the United Kingdom and joined with Ireland.

Daly succeeds Tomas O Fiaich, who died in May.

"My continuing concern will obviously be to work for an end to the violence which has afflicted both our communities for two disastrous decades," Daly told a news conference shortly after the announcement. "Refusing to give in to discouragement or to despair, we must continue to believe in peace, to pray for peace, to speak peace, to make peace, by being ourselves men and women of peace."

As the voice of the Catholic church in Belfast, where he has served as bishop of Down and Connor, Daly has been a vigorous advocate for the Catholic minority in the North but a foe of the Irish Republican Army. The IRA, Daly said two years ago, "is a question of sheer evil and we have got to face that evil and have no truck with it."

Supporters of the IRA, which is rooted in the Catholic community, regard Daly as an apologist for British rule in Northern Ireland. The IRA is waging a guerrilla war to drive the British from the Protestant-dominated province and merge it with the Irish Republic.

Ireland's Anglican primate, Robin Eames, said he had the highest respect for Daly's "intellectual gifts, his courage and integrity." Peter Brooke, the highest-ranking British official in Northern Ireland, said Daly was respected for "his resolute condemnation of violence, his concern for individual well-being and his longstanding efforts to bring about reconciliation."

At 73, Daly is the oldest prelate appointed to the Armagh post in 170 years. He must submit his resignation when he turns 75, the normal retirement age for bishops, although the pope need not accept it immediately.