A man of peace, passion and persistence was how Bishop Edward Daly was repeatedly described in the many tributes that followed the announcement of his death.
President Michael D Higgins led the tributes, saying Bishop Daly’s courage during the appalling events of Bloody Sunday was “but one part of the great contribution that was his life of service to the citizens of Derry”.
“His sense of compassion was delivered into the lives of the people he served with a practical and courageous commitment,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said his work to expose the truth of Bloody Sunday was reflected in the Saville Inquiry verdict 38 years later.
“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,” he said.
Politicians in Northern Ireland also praised the Bishop’s lifelong work for the community he served for more than half a century.
Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire said he was a constant champion of the people. “He was an iconic figure in civic life, and he will long be remembered as a cleric who worked tirelessly to promote peace for all,” he said.
Nobel peace prize winner and former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat described Bishop Daly as “always a beacon of light with a warm and reassuring presence”.
Tributes also came from those from traditions Bishop Daly criticised.
Sinn Féin MLA and the North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said the bishop, in banning republican funerals from his church during the Troubles, had “deeply hurt many in the republican tradition”.
However, he added: “But I always held him in great respect and very high esteem... he and I had the ability to sit down and talk and to find ways forward.”
Democratic Unionist leader and First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Dr Daly made a significant contribution by arguing that violence should be rejected and by articulating a vision based on respect and violence.”
Gerry Duddy, whose brother Jackie was the wounded teenager Bishop Daly tried to save on Bloody Sunday, said the priest’s actions had “meant the world” to the family.
“It just meant the world to us to know that he wasn’t on his own, that people tried to help him in his last moments of life,” said Mr Duddy who, as a 14-year-old, saw his brother lying fatally wounded on the street.
He said the fact that Bishop Daly had remained by the families’ sides for the 40 years that followed would never be forgotten.
“To have somebody like Fr Daly standing up and telling the world that he was there and that these people were murdered, gave us hope that something would be done about it.”
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