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Bishop Edward Daly – white flag priest of Bloody Sunday

Bishop Edward Daly will be forever remembered as the priest waving the white flag while trying to help a young boy shot by British soldiers during Bloody Sunday in 1972.

He was a curate at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry at the time and had attended the civil rights march against internment along with some of his parishioners. He was there when troops opened fire on the marchers, killing 13 of them. Another 13 were wounded and one of them later died in hospital.

Bishop Edward Daly – white flag priest of Bloody Sunday

He was highly critical of the way the soldiers shot at the crowd indiscriminately without any provocation. He told BBC TV reporters: “People ran in all directions and they (the soldiers) opened fire. There was no provocation whatsoever. They seemed to fire in all directions. Most people had their backs to them when they opened fire.”

Speaking of John ‘Jackie’ Duddy, the 17-year-old victim he accompanied while waving his handkerchief as a white flag of peace, he said: “That little boy was shot while he was running away. He was just a little bit behind me when he fell. I heard the shot. I looked around and I saw him dying.”

“I can remember him holding my hand and squeezing it. I knelt beside him and said, ‘Look son, we’ve got to get you out,’ but he was dead.”

Father Daly was appointed Bishop of Derry in 1974. He retired in 1994 after suffering a stroke. However he continued as chaplain to Derry’s Foyle Hospice until a few months before his death in 2016.

He wrote about his life in the Catholic Church in his book, A Troubled See, in which he created some controversy by advocating that priests should be allowed to marry if they so wished.

Bishop Daly was from Ballyshannon in Co Donegal. He died on August 8, 2016 at the age of 82.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Catholic primate of Ireland, described him as “an iconic figure in the civic and church life of Ireland”.

“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.

“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 Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, said Bishop Daly was critical of the IRA and anyone involved in the conflict and 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.”

The Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, said: “Bishop Daly served, without any concern for himself, throughout the traumatic years of the Troubles, finding his ministry shaped by the experience of witnessing violence and its effects.

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“Through this dreadful period he always strove to preach the Gospel of the peace of Christ.”

The TV footage of Father Daly waving his white handkerchief were shown all over the world. British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the British government in 2010 after the Saville Inquiry reported that the actions of the soldiers on Bloody Sunday were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.


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