Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to ex-Bishop of Derry as he passes away after long illness

Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry has died, aged 79forts
Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry has died, aged 79forts
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

The former Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, has died aged 79.

Dr Hegarty passed away at Letterkenny University Hospital in Co Donegal on Friday.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop McQuaid in St Patrick's College, Maynooth in 1966.

Following a period as a curate in Stranorlar, he was made Bishop of Raphoe in 1982 and later consecrated as Bishop of Derry in 1994.

In 2005, Dr Hegarty, who was born in Kilcar, Co Donegal in 1940, issued an apology to parishioners for failing to inform them some of their church contributions were going towards the Stewartship Trust Fund for victims of clerical sex abuse.

Dr Hegarty announced he was retiring as Bishop of Derry for health reasons in 2011, stating he was being treated for an "irreversible and progressive" condition.

In the weeks after he stepped down from the position, he apologised for historical poor practice over clerical sex abuse.

Allegations were made against 23 priests in the Derry diocese. However, there were no convictions.

A report said those suspected of child sex attacks over more than three decades were not robustly challenged or properly managed.

Speaking at the time, Dr Hegarty said: "I was a diocesan bishop for 30 years, first in Raphoe and later in Derry.

"I now look back and know that my practice in the past was sometimes poor and I am deeply sorry that anyone was hurt through my management of allegations historically.

"I know that I made big efforts to improve as time went on and this is reflected in the Derry report."

In the years leading up to his retirement, he urged anyone who was abused by a member of the clergy to report it to authorities.

In a statement issued on Friday, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Derry said: "With sadness we announce the passing from this world of Seamus Hegarty, Bishop Emeritus of Derry and former Bishop of Raphoe, who died after an illness in Letterkenny University Hospital, Co Donegal."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA expressed his condolences following Seamus Hegarty's death.

"I was sorry to hear of Seamus Hegarty's death today and I want to express my sincere condolences," he said.

"I will miss our conversations and the contribution Seamus made to our city. He had huge shoes to fill when he succeeded Bishop Daly in Derry and served communities in difficult times."

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