Civil rights campaigner, journalist, and Northern Ireland MLA Eamonn McCann knew Bishop Daly as a man with the common touch, known simply as Eddie Daly.
“He was an unusual bishop,” Mr McCann told RTÉ, recalling how he was always ready for a chat, never preachy, and “had no problem speaking to a pagan disbeliever like myself”.
That common touch was to earn him respect among those in positions of power, however, as it was felt he reflected the views of the ordinary people and could provide valuable insights into the mood on the streets.
Mr McCann said Dr Daly was always talking to people from all beliefs, be it the IRA, political organisations, the Church of Ireland or John Hume to whom he was close. “He certainly had a profound influence over the years.”
He said Dr Daly was a conservative man theologically although in his later years he had come out in favour of ending the celibacy rule for priests.
However, he largely stayed clear of the major debates that swamped the Catholic Church in the last 20 years, preferring to focus on his pastoral duties.
After he suffered a stroke in the 1990s and had to retire as bishop, it appeared he would be very limited in his work but he had surprised everybody by making an excellent recovery, throwing himself into writing, working as hospice chaplain, and engaging in other community activities.
“In recent times he was in good form, quite ebullient, and interested in everything that was going on,”he said.
Mr McCann said while the iconic photo of him waving a white handkerchief as he tended to the wounded on Bloody Sunday would be remembered most, it was what he said in the hours afterwards to the world’s media that mattered most.
His insistence that he had seen the events for himself and that the protestors were unarmed was extremely important, he said.
“I was interviewed too and people may have thought, well he would say that wound’t he, but Eddie Daly was so clearly speaking from the heart and speaking honestly and was so distressed and so emphatic. That was more significant than the photograph.”
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