Bloody Sunday ‘handkerchief’ bishop Edward Daly dies at 82

Bishop Edward Daly, made famous for his compassion during the Bloody Sunday conflict, has died. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Bishop Edward Daly, made famous for his compassion during the Bloody Sunday conflict, has died. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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A CATHOLIC peacemaker clergyman who went to the aid of civil rights protesters gunned down by British soldiers during Bloody Sunday has died, the Catholic Church said.

Bishop Edward Daly, 82, famously waved a blood-stained white handkerchief as a symbol of ceasefire as he attempted to help a fatally injured demonstrator in Londonderry in Northern Ireland in January 1972.

I felt a responsibility to tell the story of what I saw and what I saw was a young fella who was posing no threat to anybody being shot dead unjustifiably

Bishop Edward Daly

He led the church in the city through some of the darkest days of the conflict and believed the violence of the Troubles was futile and morally unjustified.

Leader of Ireland’s Catholic Church Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “Bishop Edward will be remembered as a fearless peace-builder - as exemplified by his courage on Bloody Sunday in Derry - and as a holy and humble faith leader.”

Paratroopers opened fire on Bloody Sunday and killed 13 people. Fourteen were injured, and another was to die later.

READ MORE: On this day: 13 protests marchers killed on Bloody Sunday

It has been described as one of the catalysts of the IRA and the 30-year conflict, 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 from Belleek in rural Co Fermanagh who served at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.

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

The priest was near John “Jackie” Duddy, 17, when he was shot by soldiers and anointed him and gave him the Last Rites.

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

Years of controversy have surrounded Bloody Sunday and the decision of the troops to open fire.

Bishop Daly said: “I felt a responsibility to tell the story of what I saw and what I saw was a young fella who was posing no threat to anybody being shot dead unjustifiably.”

Archbishop Martin said the late clergyman took a personal interest in those who suffered miscarriages of justice.

“His untiring advocacy for the Birmingham Six, the victims of Bloody Sunday and for the families of those murdered by paramilitaries earned him respect from some, suspicion from others.

“As a gifted spiritual leader and communicator, his words touched the hearts of many people, but his ministry was not confined to preaching.

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“He walked with his people in their struggles and joys and was most at home out in the streets, parishes and communities of his diocese.”

Dr Daly had served in the city since 1962, walking its deprived streets whose inhabitants suffered decades of underinvestment amid violence and political manoeuvring.

He was Bishop of Derry from 1974 until 1993, stepping aside after suffering a stroke. In recent years he has battled a long-term illness.

The clergyman was awarded the freedom of the city last year alongside his Church of Ireland counterpart and close friend Bishop James Mehaffey, hailing the rich “tapestry of cultures” which made up his adopted home.

Archbishop Martin added: “Bishop Edward’s bravery was also apparent in his lived conviction that violence from any side during the Troubles was futile and could never be morally justified.

“He was courageous in speaking out against injustice and took many personal risks for peace and reconciliation.”

The cleric was a prolific writer and in latter years helped the dying in his role as chaplain at Foyle Hospice in Derry.

Archbishop Martin said: “He was a gentle shepherd whose immense contribution to the spiritual and moral well-being of the people of Derry diocese during a troubled time shall never be forgotten. He had a sensitive heart and generous disposition; ever caring to the sick, the bereaved, and to victims on all sides of the Troubles.”

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