Sunday 22 April 2018

Obituary: Bishop Edward Daly

Bishop of Derry and critic of the IRA who worked for peace following the carnage of Bloody Sunday

Powerful: A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly on Bloody Sunday in January 1972. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Powerful: A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly on Bloody Sunday in January 1972. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire Newsdesk Newsdesk

Pope Francis paid tribute to the former Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Edward Daly, in a message at his funeral last week in which he commended him for his "generous and dedicated episcopal ministry in the service of peace and justice" Bishop Daly, who died last Monday aged 82, was the Catholic Bishop of Derry for 19 years, during which he was a determined critic of the IRA, condemning its gunmen from the pulpit as "followers of the gospel of Satan".

His funeral last week was attended by an estimated 3,000 mourners, a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life, who crammed into St Eugene's Cathedral and its grounds for Requiem Mass.

Staff from Foyle Hospice, where Dr Daly was chaplain until February this year, and members of his beloved Derry City FC formed a guard of honour as his remains were brought out.

President Michael D Higgins, along with representatives of the British and Irish governments, former primate Sean Brady, SDLP founder John Hume, PSNI chief for Derry Mark McEwan and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, were in the congregation

Bishop Daly is best remembered as the priest holding up a blood-soaked handkerchief, who brought a dying teenager, Jackie Duddy, through Army gunfire in search of medical help, on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972.

At the funeral service last week, Jackie's sister, Kay Duddy, joined Dr Daly's sister Marion Ferguson and his housekeeper Betty Doherty in carrying the offertory gifts to the altar.

Ms Duddy said: "This is the last thing I can do for him. He was such an integral part of our family for these past decades. My heart is sore at the thought I won't see him again, but he will be remembered in this city forever as one of the greatest priests we ever had, if not the greatest."

The carnage the then Fr Daly saw in Derry that day in 1972, as a march against internment ended in 13 deaths, put his faith to the severest of tests, and convinced him that violence in pursuit of political goals could never be justified.

The moral weight of his insistence that the dead had been unarmed and were shot in cold blood, fuelled persistent demands for an impartial inquiry.

Last week, the current Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said Dr Daly "showed physical courage on Bloody Sunday and his moral courage was evident in his passionate struggle against violence and injustice from all quarters.

"It takes enormous courage to be a peacemaker and he was an apostle of mercy, whether as a curate, as a bishop or as chaplain in the Foyle Hospice.

"For that courageous service of God and of his people, we give thanks."

Bishop Daly received threats over the years from loyalists and republicans alike, and became constantly afraid of meeting people who would be angry with him. His stooped figure, handkerchief in hand, was immortalised in a mural on the side of a house, painted by the Bogside Artists in 1997. Jackie's sister, Kay, still has the handkerchief.

Bishop Daly was a prominent witness at Lord Widgery's inquiry soon after the event, which exonerated troops from the Parachute Regiment, concluding that they had come under attack from gunmen and bombers. "He found the guilty innocent, and the innocent guilty," Daly complained. "It was the second atrocity."

When Tony Blair, in 1998, set up a second inquiry under Lord Saville of Newdigate, Daly reiterated that the demonstrators had posed no threat to the Army. Yet he also testified to having seen an IRA gunman fire three times at soldiers, who apparently did not spot him. "This didn't make me the most popular person in town," he said.

When Saville reported in 2010, placing the blame squarely on the troops, Daly hailed "a good day for truth and justice - we've waited all these years". Saying the process of forgiving could now begin, he particularly welcomed David Cameron's "powerful statement" underpinning the findings.

On Bloody Sunday, Daly, then a curate at St Eugene's Cathedral, had gone out to reassure old folk as disorder broke out. Demonstrators began running away; Saracen armoured cars appeared and firing began. It was then that he saw 17-year-old Jackie Duddy shot in the back.

"I noticed a young boy running beside me, smiling or laughing. I did not see anything in his hands. I heard a shot, and simultaneously this young boy gasped or groaned loudly. The shot seemed to come from where the Saracens were located."

Pinned down by gunfire, Daly gave Jackie the last rites and tried to stem the blood. Another young man danced past, shouting hysterically: "Shoot me, shoot me".

"Then a soldier stepped out, went down on one knee, took aim and fired at him. He was hit in the leg and, fortunately, survived. It was the one occasion in my lifetime when I witnessed one human being deliberately shoot another."

With two other men, Daly "made a dash for it" with the failing youth, in search of a phone, to call an ambulance. "That's when the television cameras caught us. We got up from our knees and I waved the handkerchief, which, by now, was heavily bloodstained. I went in front and the men behind me carried Jackie. "After we got Jackie out, I went back . . . and there was quite a number of dead and injured people, so I administered the last rites. I was stunned and very angry."

For Daly, Bloody Sunday was "the day I lost any romantic notions or ambivalence I may have had about the morality of the use of arms as a means of resolving our political problems. Ever since that terrible day, I could no longer find any justification for the use of armed aggression by any faction in the North."

Bishop Daly worked to bring Ireland's churches together for peace, and played a part in securing the IRA ceasefire of 1975. He invited prayers in his church for British soldiers, and told Americans that dollars sent to the paramilitaries were "helping to inflict further suffering and continued injustice".

Daly played a major part in trying to resolve the dispute over IRA prisoners' demand for "political" status that culminated in the hunger strike of 1981, in which Bobby Sands and nine others died. His efforts to negotiate with the government were complicated by inflammatory comments from his superior, the ultra-nationalist Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich.

In May 1981, with Sands on the point of death, Daly called for a compromise on political status; O Fiaich blamed the government. The next month Daly told the strikers their actions could not be morally justified; the strike collapsed that October, after further deaths.

Edward Kevin Daly was born on December 5, 1933 in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, but was raised in Belleek, Co Fermanagh. He boarded at St Columb's College, Derry, then studied for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome. His first curacy was at Castlederg, Co Tyrone; in 1962, he was appointed to St Eugene's.

Horrified by conditions in the Bogside, Daly raised morale by putting on amateur theatricals. The week before Bloody Sunday, Stormont turned down his application to organise a concert party for prisoners in Long Kesh.

In 1973, Daly moved to Dublin as religious adviser to RTE, "a very important escape for me". He became a regular participant in religious and current affairs broadcasts.

The next February, he was appointed Bishop of Derry. He was soon appealing for an end to "intimidation and terror" in Nationalist communities. That September he told the funeral of a Catholic judge killed by the IRA: "They cannot kill us all. It would be better to die confronting evil than to live and condone it".

Daly became increasingly outspoken over the IRA's activities in Derry. In 1980, he accused the killers of a soldier, who was home on compassionate leave after the stillbirth of his child, of "an inhuman and criminal act of the lowest order". And when two years later two soldiers were shot close to his cathedral, Daly - one of the first on the scene - put out 15,000 leaflets urging Catholics to turn the killers in.

In 1986, he angered the IRA by telling Catholics who condoned terrorism that they had effectively excommunicated themselves. The next year, after shots were fired at an IRA man's graveside, he barred their funerals from any church in his diocese.

It was typical of the forthright and fearless nature of the man. And last week Bishop McKeown paid tribute to his fellow-cleric's kind and generous nature, when he recalled some of the many stories he had heard about Bishop Daly told over recent days.

He said: "It was a privilege to stand at the door of the cathedral over the last three days and hear stories of invaluable acts of kindness, both great and small.

"The people of the diocese - and beyond - held Bishop Edward Daly in the highest regard for his loving faithfulness to them over a period of 59 years as priest and bishop in this diocese."

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin last week paid his own heartfelt and personal tribute to the man who ordained him into the priesthood.

He said: "There was never any doubt that Edward Daly was a great priest, a caring and compassionate pastor, a man of prayer and peace, a courageous and fearless leader, a special person. As I stand here at the very spot in this cathedral where Bishop Daly ordained me to the priesthood 29 years ago, I'm thinking: 'If only I could be even half the priest and bishop that he was, I know I'd be serving God well'."

Bishop Daly suffered a stroke in February 1993, and retired as bishop that autumn; thereafter, he worked as chaplain to a hospice. In 2004 he published Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled.

Just before his stroke, he reopened contacts with Sinn Fein on prospects for ending the violence; Martin McGuinness said he now recognised that Ireland could not be reunited by force. Despite having called the IRA "enemies of Derry and its people, enemies from within, the most despicable of them all", Daly confessed to a "sneaky respect" for McGuinness. He considered him "an exemplary father, an exemplary husband and a good churchgoer. I respect his ability generally, his ability as an organiser, and his ability politically".

Edward Daly published his autobiography, Mister, Are You a Priest?, in 2000.


Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section