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Bishop Edward Daly: A warm human being who touched the lives of many

By Alf McCreary

Published 09/08/2016

Bishop Edward Daly, who died yesterday, was one of the best-known senior figures in the Irish Catholic hierarchy during the past 40 years and more. He was 82.

Bishop Daly was thrust into national and international headlines on Bloody Sunday in 1972 when he was filmed waving a white handkerchief in the Bogside area of Londonderry as a group of desperate local people were carrying the fatally wounded body of Jackie Duddy out of the Army's firing line.

He was one of 13 people shot dead by Paratroopers during a civil rights demonstration in the city. Another victim died later.

It was not until 2010 that the then British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology, following the findings of the Saville Inquiry, stating that the killings "were unjustified and unjustifiable".

Edward Daly was born in Belleek, Co Fermanagh in 1933, and was educated at St Columb's College in Londonderry, and later as a seminarian at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

He was ordained on March 16, 1957, as a priest in the Diocese of Derry, and five years later he became a curate at St Eugene's College in Derry.

In 1973 he was appointed as religious advisor to RTE and the next year he became Bishop of Derry.

He served in this demanding post until serious illness led to his retirement in 1994.

During his time as Bishop of Derry he formed close relationships with his Church of Ireland counterparts, the then Bishops Robin Eames and James Mehaffey, and other religious leaders.

This led to much bridge-building in the city during some of the worst years of the Troubles, and a few years ago Bishops Daly and Mehaffey were honoured by being given the Freedom of Derry for their services.

After his retirement, and despite ill-health, Bishop Daly discovered a fulfilling new ministry as a dedicated chaplain to the Foyle Hospice in Derry.

He also served as the diocesan archivist.

Bishop Daly was essentially a shy man, who had the demeanour of someone who would have been equally happy as a parish priest living and working in relative obscurity.

He was not given to rash public statements, and he had the deep sensitivity about the importance of being the Catholic Bishop of Derry at a time when huge demands were being made of Church leaders all across the island of Ireland.

It is doubtful if he would have been happy in a higher position such as Primate, though he was well-equipped in communication terms to take on that onerous post.

However he seemed totally fulfilled in his role in Derry, and there was no doubt that his remaining years as chaplain to the Derry Hospice were among the happiest and most fulfilling of his entire ministry.

In personal terms he was a warm human being, a good conversationalist, and a person who mixed well with people of other denominations in a spirit of mutual respect.

He was Bishop of Derry during one of the most difficult periods in the city's history, and he had a gift of being a man of the people while retaining his authority and leadership as a key figure in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Above all, he was a human being who touched the lives of the people he met, and whose lives also touched him.

He will be remembered with affection and respect not only by his own people but also across the denominations.

Belfast Telegraph

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