People Before Profit MLA for Foyle, Eamonn McCann, has said “you didn’t have to be a Catholic to hold Bishop Daly in high respect”.
Mr. McCann, 73, was heavily involved in the civil rights movement in the North in the 1960s and both he and Bishop Daly crossed paths many, many times.
“The most striking thing about Eddie Daly was the extent to which people in Derry referred to him just like that – as “Eddie Daly.”
“I don’t know of any other bishop, certainly not in Ireland, who was commonly spoken of in his diocese in that way. There was nothing remote about him,” said Mr. McCann.
Mr. McCann has always been critical of the Catholic Church and other religions but that didn’t stop him from developing a friendship with Bishop Daly.
“He will have known how sharply I disagreed with the Catholic Church and with religion generally. But he never preached at me, or allowed that distance between us to prevent a friendly personal relationship. I regarded him as a friend.
Mr. McCann added: “From a political point of view, what he said on Bloody Sunday was at least as important as the photograph with which he will forever be associated. His repeated, emphatic statement in a television interview even before the smoke had cleared from Rossville Street that Jacky Duddy had been unarmed and fleeing from the soldiers when he was shot in the back was hugely important in challenging the official version of Bloody Sunday from the outset.
“Coming so insistently from a priest in obvious distress at what he had just witnessed left no room for doubt that, at the very least, the lying “official” account of the massacre was going to be contested all the way.
“Likewise, the strength of his description of the IRA “proxy-bomb” killing of Patsy Gillespie in 1990 - “The work of Satan” – was a moment of some significance in letting the IRA know that its campaign did not have the backing of those in whose name it was being waged. He amplified the pressure from below that was to bring about the ceasefire of 1994.”
Although he makes no apologies for disagreeing with Bishop Daly on many matters, Mr. McCann said no one could question just how could a man the late bishop was.
“As bishop, he would have been seen as generally conservative. This gave extra weight to his words when, five years ago, he advocated an end to clerical celibacy.
“There is a debate to be had about the influence of the institutional Catholic Church in this divided society both in historical and contemporary terms - and he was, of course, a faithful advocate of the Church’s role and record. But this is hardly the moment to pursue that debate. What I’d say is you didn’t have to be a Catholic to hold him in high respect. If I had to sum him up in a phrase, I’d say that he was a good man.”