The retired Bishop of Derry Dr. Edward Daly, described as the ‘people’s bishop’, has died in Altnagelvin Hospital on the Glenshane road in Derry, Northern Ireland
“I was scared out of my wits. There was gunfire, but one felt there was something you had to do and you just did it. If you paused to think you wouldn’t have moved, you know. After we got Jackie out I went back into the area and there was quite a number of dead and injured people, so I administered the last rites to quite a number. I was stunned and very angry.”
(Fr. Edward Daly, on the ‘Bloody Sunday’ murder of civilians by the British Army in Derry, Northern Ireland.)
The retired Bishop of Derry Dr. Edward Daly, described as the ‘people’s bishop’, has died in Altnagelvin Hospital on the Glenshane road in Derry, Northern Ireland.
Born December 5, 1933 in County Fermanagh, (one of the 6 counties in ‘Northern Ireland’), Fr. Daly trained in the Irish College in Rome for the Catholic priesthood, beginning his service in 1957. He served as Bishop of Derry from 1974 until 1993.
Edward Daly served as priest in the working class Bogside area during the Northern Ireland Conflict (‘The Troubles’) and, to his discomfort, became a media ‘celebrity’ with the famous photograph of Bloody Sunday captured by a TV crew and broadcast internationally. The Derry curate, bent to avoid army bullets still coming at them, waves a blood-stained handkerchief as 4 men carry the dying teenager Jackie Duddy in search of an ambulance. John ‘Jackie’ Duddy, aged 17, was “shot as he ran away from soldiers in the car park of Rossville Flats. The bullet struck him in the shoulder and entered his chest. Three witnesses said they saw a soldier take deliberate aim at the youth as he ran. He was the first fatality on Bloody Sunday.”
Later Bishop Daly was to say:
“Bloody Sunday changed my life in every way. I would not have been Bishop of Derry but for those pictures…I was happy ministering then I became a public figure. I was never happy with that.”
Bloody Sunday: 30 January 1972, a protest march against internment organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Northern Resistance Movement in the Bogside of Derry City, a predominantly catholic, nationalist, militant working class district in Derry is fired on by British soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, (“1 Para”). In just 11 minutes 26 unarmed civilians are shot. Fourteen people died: thirteen were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries.
“Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Other protesters were injured by rubber bullets or batons, and two were run down by army vehicles.”
Thomas Kinsella, the Dublin poet wrote at the time:
“All not blinded by your smoke,
Photographers who caught your stroke,
The priests that blessed our bodies, spoke
And wagged our blood in the world’s face.
The truth will out, to your disgrace.”
Later inquiries into the shootings have concluded that Jackie Duddy, like all the dead and wounded that day, were unarmed.
“The Saville Inquiry…was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the incident. Following a 12-year inquiry, Saville’s report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were both “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown, and that soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts” to justify their firing. On the publication of the report, British prime minister David Cameron made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom. Following this, police began a murder investigation into the killings.”
“Nurse the living, not the dead.
My words died out. A phantom said:
“Here lies one who breathed his last
Firmly reminded of the past.
A trooper did it, on one knee,
In tones of brute authority.”
In an interview with the London Independent on 9 January 2002, Dr. Daly spoke of the impact the war in the North of Ireland had on him:
“Four months before Bloody Sunday, 14-year-old Annette McGavigan was shot in the head, caught in crossfire between the Provisional IRA and the Army as she ate an ice-cream. Fr Daly administered the last rites, and had the dreadful task of informing her parents:
“I was called out to a number of incidents of people who were murdered – civilians, soldiers and policemen – to whom I administered the last rites. When you have seen people lying dead on the street, and you’ve seen what a high-velocity bullet does to a person, or you’ve been at the scene of a bombing immediately after, it does have a very considerable impact on you,” he says, sighing loudly.
I became unhappy generally with life as a whole, with this situation that one found oneself trapped in, with all the misery and human suffering, and consoling people who were bereaved – endlessly – and just seeing the sheer cruelty of one human being to another. You felt so helpless with all this obscenity going on around you, the taking of life, the destruction of homes and businesses and jobs. The way people became brutalised by the whole thing just appalled me. I think I was feeling disillusioned with humanity and with my faith. It lasted for several months.”
Fr. Daly retired as Bishop in 1993 after suffering a stroke. He then became Foyle hospice chaplain, a position he held until earlier this year.
He wrote a number of volumes of his memoirs in 2000 and 2011; the 20011 volume ‘A Troubled See’ creating controversy within the catholic community by his comments on priesthood celibacy:
“There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church…I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish. It may create a whole new set of problems but I think it’s something that should be considered.”
Martin McGuiness, Sinn Féin deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, who was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry at the time of Bloody Sunday, said this morning:
“…Deeply saddened at death of much loved former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly. Hard being Bishop at a time of war, pleased he lived to see Peace.”
“When I first came to Derry, many of the streets I served in did not have a single telephone, now most people over 10 years of age have a powerful minicomputer in their hand or in their pocket or their bag. There have been many advances – better housing, better living conditions – the city looks so much better – the work that this Council has done on the Waterfront is truly stunning and worthy of mention. But, as was the situation 53 years ago, there are still unacceptable levels of unemployment. “
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. May he rest in peace.
Photograph: Bloody Sunday Mural
Kenneth Allen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons