Bloody Sunday 'white handkerchief' bishop Edward Daly dies


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.

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. 

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.

"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."

Northern Ireland Assembly member Eamonn McCann, who was at the Bloody Sunday march and chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust, remembered the bishop as a respected man with the common touch as he happily allowed members of his flock to call him by his name of Eddie Daly.

He said: "In a quiet sort of way he had a real influence on the course of events here, the way the IRA campaign ended and the perception people had of the British Army.

"I think that in terms of the immediate impact of Bloody Sunday, especially in the early stages where there was a lot of spin about what had happened, Eddie Daly was adamant and clearly insistent about what had happened. It had a significant effect.

"He was a priest, clearly distressed, describing the killing of Jackie Duddy and saying he did not have a gun and he did not have a petrol bomb.

"I think his words (then) were more influential than just the photograph. He would also criticise the IRA afterwards over the years.

"He was credible. He was quite a conservative man and not a radical priest."

Kate Nash, whose 19-year-old brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, said Bishop Daly was dedicated to non-violence.

She said: "He has spoken out loudly and bravely on non-violence. He knew what happened on Bloody Sunday and said often that it was murder and he understood the struggle for justice."

She said he and those carrying Jackie Duddy's body could have been shot.

"He was a very brave individual doing that because soldiers were firing at everybody really, he was definitely in danger of getting shot that day."