Death of Derry’s man of peace Edward Daly

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death

‘Reluctant’ Bishop who preferred to be a priest became the defining image of Bloody Sunday

Tributes from all over Ireland have been paid to Bishop Edward Daly, the man whose attempts to save the life of dying teenager Jackie Duddy while under fire from British Army paratroops became the defining image of Bloody Sunday in 1972, following his death on Monday.

Tributes from across Ireland and Irish life have been paid to the late former Bishop of Derry Edward (Eddie) Daly whose humanitarian action on Bloody Sunday is one of the most iconic images of The Troubles.


On Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, he was the priest seen waving a bloodied white handkerchief as he led a small group through the streets of Derry in search of medical assistance for dying teenager Jackie Duddy despite being under fire from British Army soldiers. That same day thirteen civil rights protestors had been gunned down by British paratroops.

Born in Beleek, Co Fermanagh in December 1933 he was educated at St Columb’s College in Derry and studied for the priesthood in the Irish College in Rome. He was ordained a priest on 16 March 1957 for the diocese of Derry. In 1962, he was appointed as a curate in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry.

At the time of the photograph above Eddie Daly was 39 and a curate at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. In 1973, he was appointed religious advisor to RTÉ, Dublin.

He was appointed Bishop of Derry in 1974, aged just 40 and one of the youngest bishops in Ireland and Europe, a post he held for nearly 20 years before ill health following a stroke forced him to retire in 1994.

At his first Mass as Bishop of Derry he said in his sermon that violence of any kind was to be deplored: “Surely it must be clear to everyone by now that violence create far more problems than it can every hope to solve.”

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death

The Provos and the British Army observed an unofficial truce for the day in Derry when he was installed as Bishop as a mark of respect. After retirement he continued his ministry as chaplain to Derry’s Foyle Hospice until February of this year. In that time he ministered to many, many hundreds of people at the end of their lives and their families.

In recent months he had been suffering from cancer, the diocese of Derry confirmed that his family was at his bedside at Altnagelvin Hospital when he died.

Leading the many tributes to Dr Daly, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said: “Edward Daly will be remembered by many for his peaceful, compassionate, humanitarian and courageous actions during the appalling events of Bloody Sunday.

“This was but one part of the great contribution that was his life of service to the citizens of Derry, including as it did his leadership in the tasks of regeneration and his work with the hospice movement in the later part of his life.

“His sense of compassion was delivered into the lives of the people he served with a practical and courageous commitment.”

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death
Pictured Deputy First Minister in Northen Ireland Martin McGuinness. Photo: Sam Boal/

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was in Derry on Bloody Sunday, said Bishop Daly was “a constant right throughout the course of the last 40 odd years in the city through the good times and bad.

“People, I suppose, need to understand that Bishop Daly was inherently a shy person, he was not someone who sought the headlines, but he was propelled into the headlines because of Bloody Sunday, as he tried to help Jackie Duddy, for that iconic image.

“He was a bishop and priest who was very in tune with the local community.”

Mr McGuinness said Bishop Daly was always very critical of IRA violence and “anyone that was involved in the conflict”.

Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said: “As well as being a man of God, Bishop Daly was first and foremost a man of peace. He was a key advocate for peace in Northern Ireland over a period of decades. As a pastor in Derry, he strove to heal a divided city.”

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death
Eamonn McCann. Photo:

Stormont Assembly member and former Northern Ireland civil rights protestor Eamonn McCann, MLA for Foyle, said Edward Daly’s actions and words carried tremendous weight in January 1972 in conveying to the world’s journalists that that an unarmed man had been shot.

“He was so emphatic, so distressed when he told reporters that the young man did not have a gun, was unarmed. That had a huge influence on what people believed about Bloody Sunday,” Mr McCann told RTÉ Radio.

The Catholic primate of All- Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was ordained by Dr Daly in 1987, described him as “an iconic figure in the civic and church life of Ireland”. He said Dr Daly had “literally spent himself in the service of others”.

“My first memory of Bishop Edward is when I was a thirteen year old boy, walking to the bottom of our street in Pennyburn, to greet the new bishop. He was just forty years of age and came across as warm, youthful and interested in us, his people. I shall always be grateful for his pastoral guidance, kindness and support.

“Bishop Edward was an iconic figure in the civic and church life of Ireland, North and South. He truly lived and proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ and, in doing so, became a role model for all of us.”

“His personal friendship with (Church of Ireland) Bishop James Mehaffey sent a quiet, yet powerful message of harmony and bridge building across the community divide. At the height of the Troubles both men would together visit the families bereaved or hurt by the latest atrocities. When either was criticised by their communities – which, because of their courageous and unequivocal opposition to violence, they often were – the other provided moral support.

“As the bishop who ordained me to the priesthood in 1987, I had huge admiration for Bishop Edward. I shall always be grateful for his pastoral guidance, kindness and support.

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/

“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.

“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.”

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said Dr Daly was “one of the most distinguished and best loved bishops in Ireland”. He said he had a remarkable sense of integrity, which he retained despite attempts to discredit his eyewitness account of Bloody Sunday.

Archbishop Martin said: “Edward Daly’s position of integrity gave him a freedom to express his opinion on many things.

“During the Widgery Enquiry, all those years when they were basically calling him a liar. He didn’t respond. He never changed his version or his anger over how it was covered up. “He was a very popular bishop. I was at his ordination as I have family in the area, on Inishowen. He was an extremely warm person, a joy to be with. There was a deep spirituality deeply embedded in the man.”

Bishop Daly recalled the aftermath of his actions on Bloody Sunday thus: “After Bloody Sunday, I had a difficult time as many people in the Loyalist/Unionist community would have seen my action on that day as sympathetic to Republicans – just simply in terms of being critical of the British Army. I perceived it as pastoral ministry – dealing with people who were wounded and trying to get them to hospital and giving them the last rights and praying with them as they died. Ultimately, Savile reported on it and I think people then came to accept what I was really about – that it was pastoral ministry.”

Derrys Bishop Edward Daly Death
The leader of the SDLP John Hume. Photo:

Bishop Daly always believed that the true hero of the Troubles in Derry was former SDLP leader John Hume without whom, he said, peace would never have come to Northern Ireland. He always maintained John Hume’s “fingerprints were all over the Good Friday Agreement just as they were all over the Sunningdale Agreement” and said John Hume had been involved in “every positive thing that has happened in the North over the last 40 years”.

Dr Daly was at the the heart of the regeneration of Derry’s city centre through a charitable trust which bought properties and involved local young people in redeveloping them.

By the time he retired from the Inner City Trust in early 2000, it had a portfolio of property worth £25m, no debts, and had overseen the redevelopment of the city’s Tower Museum, the craft centre, and the Nerve centre, a rehearsal space for music and theatre, as well as the school of animation.

Five years ago he angered clerical authorities in Rome by suggesting that compulsory celibacy for priests should be ended.

Derry’s farewell to Edward Daly


Sign in or create your account to join the discussion

Register now to keep up to date with all the latest:

  • Irish News
  • Sport
  • Community and Entertainment

Sign up to our Newsletter to be in with a chance to win a snazzy iPad and for all the latest...

  • Email updates
  • Regular features
  • Competitions and give aways