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Friday 20 April 2018

Bloodstained handkerchief created iconic image

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

HE was at the centre of the iconic image of the Bloody Sunday massacre, a chance occurrence that paved the way for him becoming Bishop of Derry.

Now retired, Bishop Edward Daly was a local curate when he found himself engulfed in the events of that terrible day in January 1972 when 13 people were shot dead.

Black-and-white footage was beamed around the world showing a crouched priest desperately waving a bloodstained handkerchief as he led a group of men carrying the body of a shot teenager as bullets flew overhead.

Bishop Daly later acknowledged it was a day which changed his life, suddenly transforming him into a public figure.

Although unhappy with his new status, it quickly catapulted him to the head of the diocese and in 1974 he was ordained Bishop of Derry. It was a position he held for almost 20 years until his retirement.

In 1989, while Bishop Daly was being treated for cancer, a then 18-year-old girl finally broke down and told her parents about the years of abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of a local priest. The family met Auxiliary Bishop Francis Lagan, who was standing in for Bishop Daly, and he offered them counselling in Dublin.

But the case didn't end there. Five years later the family met new incumbent, Bishop Seamus Hegarty.

The family said they were given assurances their daughter's alleged abuser would be removed from the diocese and would never have access to young girls again.

They were shocked to discover in 1995 that the priest was still working in the diocese.

Feeling that she had no confidence in the church to deal with her case, the woman launched a civil case against Bishops Hegarty and Daly as well as her alleged abuser.


The case was settled out of court and without admission of liability. However, the woman was told she had to sign a confidentiality agreement in return for stg£12,000 compensation and a letter of apology from the priest against whom she had made the claims.

It is not the first time Bishop Hegarty has been drawn into the controversy surrounding clerical sex abuse. He was already coming under pressure for his handling of a paedophile priest in his previous diocese, Raphoe, when this latest case came to light. Bishop Hegarty was head of Raphoe when serial child rapist Eugene Greene served as a priest there.

While rumours and allegations had been circulating about Greene from as early as 1976, it would be almost 25 years and eight parish moves, before he was brought to justice.

In 2000, he was sentenced to 12 years after pleading guilty to 41 sample charges against 26 victims. No longer a priest and released from prison in 2008, Greene is believed to be living in Co Galway.

Following the publication of the Murphy report into child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese late last year, Raphoe came under the spotlight yet again and there were calls for an investigation into the handling of clerical sex abuse cases there.

However, Bishop Hegarty moved to distance himself from his former diocese after his spokesman said they had enough issues to be getting on with in Derry "without bothering about 30 years ago in Raphoe".

We now know that one of those issues was that of the Derry woman.

Irish Independent

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