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Monday, August 8, 2016

The Most Reverend Edward Daly, bishop in the Troubles – obituary

In May 1981, with Sands on the point of death, Daly called for a compromise on political status; ” Fiaich blamed the government. The next month Daly told the strikers their actions could not be morally justified; the strike collapsed that October, after further deaths.

Daly visited IRA prisoners and pressed for improvements in their treatment, but was cautious over pursuing claims that they were innocent. His decision to campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six, convicted of the pub bombings in 1975 that killed 21 people and injured nearly 200, was thus significant.

He explained that the Six were “quite unlike any other IRA prisoners I have visited”, in their lack of political fervour, and of the brains needed to organise a bombing campaign. In 1991 they were freed, Daly declaring them “victims of a dreadful injustice”.

Edward Kevin Daly was born on December 5 1933 at Belleek, Co Fermanagh. He boarded at St Columb’s College in Derry, then studied for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome. His first curacy was at Castlederg, Co Tyrone, then in 1962 he was appointed to St Eugene’s.

Horrified by conditions in the Bogside, Daly raised morale by putting on amateur theatricals. The week before Bloody Sunday, Stormont turned down his application to organise a concert party for prisoners in Long Kesh.

Bloody Sunday was not the only carnage Daly had to face. Four months earlier, he had administered the last rites to a 14-year-old girl shot in the head in crossfire between the Provisionals and the Army as she ate an ice cream. Weeks later, he accompanied the father of an IRA man to see his remains in the morgue. The young man had been killed assembling a bomb and only his buttocks remained, clad in red underpants.

In 1973 Daly moved to Dublin as religious adviser to RTE, “a very important escape for me”. He became a regular participant in religious and current affairs broadcasts.

The next February, he was appointed Bishop of Derry. He was soon appealing for an end to “intimidation and terror” in Nationalist communities. That September he told the funeral of a Catholic judge killed by the IRA: “They cannot kill us all. It would be better to die confronting evil than to live and condone it.”

In September 1975 he was shouted down by extreme Protestants in St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, as he tried to deliver what would have been the first sermon by a Catholic there since the Reformation.

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