THE Rr Revd Edward Daly, a former Bishop of Derry, who died on Monday, aged 82, was the Roman Catholic priest whose image, waving a bloodied handkerchief to secure safe passage for an injured youth on “Bloody Sunday” in 1972, was broadcast worldwide.
That event, in which 13 people were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment, propelled Dr Daly, then a curate, into the limelight, and later led to active engagement with the Civil Rights movement led by John Hume. The British Government has since apologised for the events of Bloody Sunday, after two lengthy inquiries, which finally exonerated the unarmed civilians on a peaceful protest.
Dr Daly often maintained that he would never have become a bishop, were it not for the high profile he unwontedly attracted in 1972. It was a post that often frustrated him: he loathed the administrative burden and lengthy meetings that the position involved.
Although the Bishop was criticised by politicians and some in the media for talking to the perpetrators of violence, he frequently clashed with the IRA, once remarking that “violence is completely unacceptable as a means to a political end — when you see what a high-velocity bullet does to the human head, any romantic ideas about violence you may have go out the window”.
None the less, he favoured dialogue to achieve peace rather than the route of excommunication that some of his fellow bishops occasionally preferred. “Better to communicate than to excommunicate,” he said.
Often dubbed “the reluctant bishop”, Dr Daly was a pastoral priest. He retired as a bishop in 1993 after suffering a stroke, and, in 2007, when celebrating the golden jubilee of his ordination, he recalled the intervening years as his most satisfying. “Pastoral ministry is why I became a priest,” he said.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, said that Dr Daly had “provided unwavering Christian leadership and guidance when it was desperately needed in this city and community during the darkest days of the Troubles”.
The Rt Revd James Mehaffey, a former Anglican Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, said that he and Dr Daly had become “firm friends”. “We ministered to a divided community at a difficult time in its history. . . We worked closely together, at home and abroad — including on two joint visits to the United States — and the friendship which developed between us was one of the great blessings of my ministry. What Bishop Edward and I did together was based on faith, friendship, respect, and trust.”
Dr Daly’s body lay in state at St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, from Monday evening until his requiem mass yesterday.