Belfast Telegraph

Bishop hails 'tapestry of cultures'

A retired Catholic bishop who waved a blood-stained white handkerchief during Bloody Sunday has said he is honoured and humbled to be awarded the freedom of the city where the shootings took place.

Dr Edward Daly provided one of the grim images of the Troubles as he brandished the rag while attempting to help a fatally injured civil rights protester in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in January 1972.

British paratroopers had opened fire and killed 13 demonstrators. Fourteen were injured and another was to die later.

Dr Daly has served in the city since 1962.

He said: "I was shocked and terrified during the years of conflict, those years provided me with great challenges that I found daunting and sometimes shocking, sometimes terrifying."

He told Derry City councillors during his acceptance speech in the city's Guildhall that his experience over five decades had taught him that people can do more together than apart.

"Difference should be seen as enriching rather than threatening. There is a rich tapestry of cultures here and each of them has made an important contribution to who we are and what we are and each of these should be cherished by us all."

Bloody Sunday has been described as one of the catalysts of the Troubles in Northern Ireland which left more than 3,000 dead and many others injured.

Civil rights demonstrators seeking one man one vote and other concessions from the unionist-dominated government of Northern Ireland had gathered for a march in Derry.

At the time Dr Daly was a curate aged 39 at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.

He joined the march as it passed the cathedral en route to the city centre.

He was near John "Jackie" Duddy, 17, when he was shot by soldiers and anointed him and gave him the Last Rites.

Fr Daly and other marchers attempted to bring him to safety. The priest led the way with a handkerchief in his hand.

Mr Duddy's sister Kay was in the Guildhall for Tuesday night's ceremony recognising the work of Bishop Daly and his Church of Ireland counterpart, Bishop James Mehaffey, over many decades.

Ms Duddy said: "It was a comfort to us to know that he was there with him in his dying seconds.

"It has been a great source of comfort over the years knowing that he was there and was able to give Jackie the Last Rites and was able to state unequivocally that Jackie was innocent of doing anything at the time that he was actually shot.

"He said at the time and still says to this day, that Jackie was murdered beside him as he ran past him, just knowing that he was there with him was such a comfort to us and he has become such a personal friend."

Dr Daly, 81, has recalled that on the day soldiers were firing bullets in all directions, people running every way amid scenes of chaos.

A judge-led investigation concluded that the men were innocent.

The Saville Inquiry cost £195 million and was the longest-running and most expensive inquiry in British history.

In his evidence to Saville, Bishop Daly said he felt a personal duty to do what he could to establish beyond doubt the innocence of those whose deaths or injuries he witnessed on Bloody Sunday.

The inquiry said the Army had fired the first shots on Bloody Sunday and was to blame for what happened.

Prime Minister David Cameron branded the killings "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Dr Daly said inter-church dialogue and church leadership in the city in the 1970s and 1980s involved: "Getting one's hands dirty, it meant talking honestly and bluntly, confronting difficult issues, making difficult decisions, speaking one's mind and being mature enough to reach a Christian resolution."

He said he and Bishop Mehaffey were friends.

"We learned to share rather than impose, to tolerate rather than to squabble, above all we learned to respect rather than distrust.

"If that can be achieved in the midst of bitter conflict surely it can be achieved at any time."

The last two people to be given the freedom of the city included peace process founder and Nobel Laureate John Hume.

Dr Daly added: "I am honoured and humbled to follow in their giant footsteps."

Stormont's Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attended the ceremony.

The Saville Inquiry found he was present at the time of the violence and "probably armed with a sub-machine gun" but did not engage in "any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire".

Mr Hume and Foyle MP Mark Durkan were also present for the council sitting.

All council members, dressed in flowing purple ceremonial robes, and visitors stood and applauded after the awards were made.

SDLP councillor John Boyle proposed the freedom honour.

He said: "Bishop Daly exhibited real courage on Bloody Sunday and his undoubted bravery in many situations was to become a constant theme throughout his ministry and after it."

Dr Mehaffey, 82, was elected bishop in 1980. He worked closely with Dr Daly over many years to promote reconciliation, including at Londonderry's Inner City Trust which involved hundreds of disadvantaged young people in construction.

"The outside world may not like either of us and certainly might not like the two of us together but we have gotten on remarkably well and it shows you that people you might think are far away in mentality and outlook could be your closest friend and Bishop Daly and I are very close friends."

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