Bishop Edward Daly D.D : Death and Legacy
Bishop Edward Daly, Doctor of Divinity, was a well known Irish Roman Catholic priest and author of pastoral and other publications. He served as the Bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1994.
As advocate and activist he took part in several civil rights marches and events during the period known as ‘The Troubles’. He had first-hand experience of the Battle of the Bogside in 1969, the early years of The Troubles and of internment. He became a public figure after he appeared in the iconic photograph in Derry on the day of ‘Bloody Sunday’ on 30 January 1972 waving a blood-stained white handkerchief to escort a group carrying an unarmed and mortally wounded youth after British troops opened fire on unarmed protestors.
The seventeen year old boy, Jack Duddy, died of his injuries soon after and Daly administered the last rites. He later described the events as “a young fella who was posing no threat to anybody being shot dead unjustifiably.” It was a pivotal event in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland when thirteen civilians were shot dead by soldiers. Years later Daly opined that the events of Bloody Sunday were a significant catalyst to the violence in Northern Ireland and that the shootings served to greatly increase recruitment to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Controversy over the massacre of Bloody Sunday has continued over decades. More recently the British Government has provided an official apology upholding Daly’s testimony to the ‘Saville Inquiry’ and others that the civilian marchers had been unarmed.
Edward Daly (5 December 1933 – 8 August 2016)
He was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, but raised in Belleek, County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland. His parents were Tom and Susan Daly (nee Flood). He was the eldest of six siblings including Tom Daly junior, who became a prominent politician. He attended and boarded at St Columb’s College in Derry on a scholarship after which he spent six years studying towards ordination for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome.* He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Derry in Belleek on 16 March 1957. His first appointment was as a Curate in Castlederg, Co.Tyrone.
In 1962 he was appointed as a Curate in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry with responsibility for the Bogside area of the city. He left briefly in the 1970s to serve for a time as a religious adviser to RTE in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Throughout his career and particularly his tenure as Bishop of Derry until he retired in 1994, he took a keen interest in the criminal justice system, seeking to attend to the needs of prisoners, internees and victims of miscarriages of justice. He became a public voice in lobbying for the protection of human rights intervening with the British Government and also lobbying at the European Commission on Human rights, notably in 1981 for the hunger strikers detained at HM Maze Prison. The events of Bloody Sunday left him of the opinion that “violence is completely unacceptable as a means to a political end” which led during his career to periods of tension with the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Derry City Council in 2015 in a joint ceremony with Bishop James Mehaffey, with whom he had worked closely while the two were in office. The city’s mayor announced that the joint award was in recognition of the two bishops’ efforts towards peace and community cohesion. Daly said he was “hugely pleased to accept the award … shared with Bishop James”.
Death and Legacy
Extensive obituaries and homilies appeared at home and abroad, one describing him as a “fearless peace builder”. His funeral service was conducted by the incumbent bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, attended by multiple religious and political leaders across Ireland and retired leaders from throughout his career. A message from Pope Francis was read out at the beginning of the service. Public figures included the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his predecessor Mary McAleese, who paid tribute to his work for peace during The Troubles, as did leaders of various religious denominations in Derry.
Despite his elevation within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Edward Daly was happier performing pastoral ministry and felt that the years after his retirement as bishop, which he spent tending to terminally ill hospice patients, were his “most fulfilling as a priest”. His motto was Pasce oves meas “Feed my sheep”. Hundreds of people attended the funeral, some lining the route from the Cathedral to the grave.
Ita Marguet, August 2016
Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources used in this text. Related articles in 2012 are titled *Pontifical Irish College: Ireland and Italy, and Belfast and Derry: Shared History and Culture, by Ita Marguet