Irish Roman Catholic bishop and author Edward Daly, a former Bishop of Derry, died in hospital during the early hours of August 8th. He was 82.
Throughout his Church career in Derry, Bishop Edward Daly participated in civil rights marches. He was present at the Battle of the Bogside in 1969, the early years of the Troubles, internment, and the events of Bloody Sunday, where British officers fired on defenseless protesters on January 30, 1972. Fourteen people died that day, including 17-year-old Jackie Duddy, who Daly escorted to medical services by waving a bloodstained handkerchief as a white flag. This moment, preserved in a photograph, established Daly as a public figure. He performed the last rites for Duddy before he succumbed to his injuries, later describing him in a BBC interview as “a young fella who was posing no threat to anybody being shot dead unjustifiably.” Daly’s actions gained him worldwide recognition, and he became a prominent opponent of violence as a means to a political end.
Appointed the Bishop of Derry in 1974, Daly sought to attend the needs of prisoners, internees, and victims of miscarriages of justice, such as the Birmingham Six, who were wrongly convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. After suffering a stroke in 1994, Daly was forced to retire from his position, instead undertaking a chaplaincy in Derry’s Foyle Hospice until February 2016.
Daly was born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and raised in Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland. He was the older brother of prominent nationalist politician Tom Daly.
Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Belleek in Derry in 1957, Daly served as a curate in two Derry parishes, leaving briefly in the 1970s to act as a religious advisor for RTÉ in Dublin.
Following his death, Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin paid tribute to Daly in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, saying that he will be remembered as “a fearless peace-builder.”
President Michael D. Higgins told RTÉ that he learned of Daly’s death with great sadness, and that he will be remembered for “his peaceful, compassionate, humanitarian and courageous actions during the appalling events of Bloody Sunday.”
Also speaking with RTÉ, Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said that as a pastor in Derry, Daly “strove to heal a divided city.”
Incumbent Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown told the Guardian that he “served, without any concern for himself, through the traumatic years of the Troubles, finding his ministry shaped by the experience of witnessing violence and its effects.”
According to the Guardian’s obituary, the abiding memory of Daly is one of “a terrified but calm priest waving a bloodied white handkerchief.” Daly believed that it was this iconic image that made him bishop; however, he said that his retired years, spent tending terminally ill hospice patients, were “his most fulfilling as a priest.”
Daly’s remains were buried on the grounds of St. Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry. On the morning of his death, its bells tolled for one hour while locals arrived to pay their respects. ♦