Bishop Edward Daly ... Immensely Brave

Courtesy of The Transcripts a Radio Free Eireann interview. Martin Galvin (MG) interviews journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) of the Derry Journal via telephone from Doire about the passing of Bishop Edward Daly. (May he rest in peace).

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MG: We are going to try and go to Doire. We’re going to talk to Eamon Sweeney. Eamon, who has been on the programme before, is a journalist with the Derry Journal. During the past week Bishop Edward Daly, who was a very well-known and respected, beloved figure in Ireland – he had been the Bishop of Doire for almost twenty years. He happened to be a priest assigned to Doire at the time of Bloody Sunday and he – one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday is of then Father Edward Daly – a handkerchief – holding it up in one hand – his other hand holding it up. And this happened only a few months after another priest, Father Mullan, was killed in Belfast during what was called the Ballymurphy Massacre – shot down for trying to prevent people from being arrested, unjustly and falsely interned – what Francie McGuigan had just talked about.

And Bishop Edward Daly passed away and one of the things we’re going to talk about is that – the impact on the community. And the reaction where Unionist officials wouldn’t attend and where a Bloody Sunday Trooper has accused Bishop Daly of literally having a gun up his sleeve. Eamon, welcome back to WBAI Radio Free Éireann!

ES: Thank you, Martin.

MG: Eamon, this past week I got an urgent email from Kate Nash. Kate Nash of course was the sister of one of the young men killed on Bloody Sunday and the last time she contacted me urgently was to tell me about Sandy Boyer, who used to be the host of this show, passing away. And this week she emailed me about the death of Bishop Edward Daly – how much of an impact that had on all of the Bloody Sunday families, all of the people of Doire. There are a lot of clergymen that wouldn’t be thought of and remembered so fondly by people like Kate Nash, by the Bloody Sunday families and others but Bishop Daly certainly stood out. Could you tell us why that was?

ES: Well plainly and simply and by Bishop Daly’s own admission the reason why he became Bishop of Doire in 1974 was because of his actions on the 30th of January 1972. The pictures are well known to all your listeners, they’re known around the world, of him showing immense physical courage in leading a group of men carrying the dead body of Jackie Duddy, a seventeen year old teenager who was gunned down by the Parachute Regiment that afternoon.

That was the culmination of ten years of service that he’d already spent in and around the Bogside as a priest in Doire. He came to the city in 1962, was basically given charge of the local parish hall, which is Saint Columb’s, as you know well, Martin, at the centre of Doire and told to revitalise it. He then launched a career of basically organising huge and very, very popular quality entertainment nights at Saint Columb’s Hall, raising money for it – keeping it going. But also mainly giving the people in the area an outlet, somewhere to go. So there was much, much more to Father Edward Daly, then Bishop Edward Daly, than just the actions that he is known worldwide for on Bloody Sunday.

He is first and foremost a priest of the people. And secondly he then, because of the position he found himself in, became an advocate for peace in the country. But you know the very fact that he is a priest and many other priests on that afternoon in 1972 chose to be on the ground with the people who were marching against internment in Doire City shows the calibre of those men as human beings. It shows that they actually cared for the flock that they had as a congregation in the city, you know? Bishop Edward Daly is, in my estimation, there will never be another one who will shine out like that. I don’t think anybody would ever pretend that in the years to come that they could ever live up to the quality of the man that he actually was – basically he’s been christened here as ‘the people’s Bishop’ and that’s what he was. Many other church figures have been criticised for their standoffishness during the decades. He certainly wasn’t like that

By The Bogside Artists at The People’s Gallery Doire
MG: Alright. Eamon, there are two things that I just want to go over about that famous, iconic photograph that people have seen, or painting. A few months before, in August of 1971, the same Parachute Regiment that was there in Doire on Bloody Sunday had opened fire in Ballymurphy during the process of internment. And a number of people had been killed including a Father Mullan. So the fact that Bishop Daly was there with a handkerchief, was there with his hand up, that did not guarantee that he would not meet the same fate as Father Mullan – and he of course led Jackie Duddy to an ambulance at that time.

ES: Absolutely not. I mean a dog collar, or a clerical collar, was no guarantee of immunity from being shot dead by the British Army in Northern Ireland. Father Hugh Mullan in Ballymurphy, which was again another instance of abject terror inflicted upon people and lasted for over three days. Father Mullan went out, identified himself as a priest and crawled on the waste ground to try and help another man that had been shot down by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy and the response to that was to shoot him dead as well – on open ground where he had clearly nothing in his hands in terms of weaponry or anything else – he was clearly seen, identified as a priest, but they chose to shoot him dead. So Father Daly was under no illusion that once the Parachute Regiment opened fire on the streets of Doire all those years ago that he was, because he was wearing a dog collar, he was safe from any sort of injury – he simply wasn’t.

So that very fact that he chose to step out in front of the group of men carrying the body of Jackie Duddy and try and use his position as a priest or a clergyman and wave a white hankie of truce to let this body get through and hopefully be treated was an immensely brave thing to do because he had known all along about the stories from Ballymurphy. Priests were regularly abused by the British Army in and around Doire. There was no immunity or respect from the British Army for clerical collars – not at the ground level anyway.

MG: Considering – one of the articles that I was sent – it’s somewhat shocking – usually you say nothing but good about the dead but I’m reading an article by a British Paratrooper, a fellow named Allan Woods, where he is claiming that Bishop Daly literally, had a gun – he said he was concealing a weapon in the sleeve of his left arm and he called him a number of things which I wouldn’t repeat because there’s a list of words which we’re not allowed to say on the airwaves in the United States but there is a list of things that he called Bishop Daly and said he was associated with the IRA and questioned the legitimacy of his parents at the time that Bishop Daly was born – that sort of thing. What do you attribute this – I mean this is so many years later and these British troops are still attacking the man like that?

ES: Well first and foremostly: Is this guy for real? Number Two: Can he prove his bona fides of his presence in Doire on the 30th of January 1972? If he was there he was extremely young. On top of that he claims by the information that he’s making on those Facebook posts that were picked up by the press that he was at the spot, at the corner of Chamberlain Street and High Street, where the footage of Bishop Daly and Jackie Duddy and the other men carrying the body were – so there are clearly soldiers visible in that footage – was he one of them? I don’t believe it for a second!
(Ed. Note: 15 Aug 2016 Update on Allan Woods)

I would actually question whether or not this guy was in the British Parachute Regiment and if he was I don’t think he was in Doire at the time simply because any of those guys who were involved at the time – why would he take the chance of ruining his own anonymity after they fought so hard to preserve it during the Saville Inquiry? His comments are lamentable – being kind about it – lamentable. At the other end of it they are an absolute disgrace, you know? And if he thinks he’s going to sully the name or the memory of Bishop Daly by calling him an associate of the IRA or whether he was carrying a gun or not up the sleeve of his coat while the hankie was in his other hand is an absolute drivel and nonsense! So to give this guy any more credence than we just have is completely unnecessary. I think he should just crawl back under the rock from where he came.

MG: Well he wasn’t the only person who seemed to have some kind of disagreement or some kind of negative reaction to Bishop Daly’s death. The mayor of Doire – and Doire of course is an overwhelming Nationalist city but they move back and forth between the parties as a matter of courtesy – the mayor of Doire I believe is in the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) at this time but at any event, the Mayor said she could not attend or did not attend the services for Bishop Daly and I don’t know if anybody from her party attended the services for Bishop Daly in Doire. Is that correct?

ES: Well, she didn’t and for whatever reason, and that reason hasn’t come to light – she maintained that she had a prior engagement – if that’s the case then and that’s the way she wanted to tackle the funeral of Bishop Daly and that’s entirely up to the mayor of Doire. It’s sad that somebody from the civic representation side in this city didn’t choose perhaps to attend. She is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party. Perhaps the lady has her own religious beliefs. That’s absolutely fine as well. The Democratic Unionist Party did however – she did open a Book of Condolence for Bishop Daly – she did sit and get pictured and signed you know a good message in that book. And another local guy, who’s now an MLA within the Democratic Unionist Party, Gary Middleton, also took the time and trouble to come and send his sympathies and sign the Book of Condolence. And Gregory Campbell, believe it or not, actually sent out a message lamenting the passing of Bishop Daly. So I think there is a sadness about the fact that perhaps the reason why the mayor didn’t attend was on religious grounds in this day and age but that’s where we are but if that’s her belief then she’s entitled to it.

All the churches in Doire of all denominations, Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian – all had representatives in that chapel for the funeral on Tuesday. First and foremost amongst them was another elderly former bishop called Bishop James Mahaffey with whom Bishop Daly, in the ’70’s and ’80’s – from the ’80’s rather, when he arrived in Doire, Bishop Mahaffey struck up a great relationship and did more in those years quietly and behind the scenes to promote community relations between Catholics and Protestants in our city and beyond than a thousand politicians have done in a lifetime of trying. That’s says it all so never mind about the absence of the mayor of Doire. There were a lot stronger tributes to be paid and they were paid in full.

MG: Alright. I want to, just in terms of Bishop Daly and Bloody Sunday – one of the reasons why he is thought of so fondly and remembered so fondly, particularly by the Bloody Sunday families: It was not just the courageous help that he gave or just his leading the way so that young Duddy could be brought to an ambulance, although Duddy passed away, but in the months that followed that there was a complete attempt to whitewash and deny what had happened by the British government and Bishop Daly was a leading figure through that. The first thing that happened of course was the Widgery Tribunal. And just could you explain to our audience what that was and what Bishop Daly did during that tribunal?

ES: Well obviously in the aftermath of the killing of thirteen people in one afternoon by a British Army Regiment there has to be some sort of rationale by themselves to explain exactly what actions their troops had taken. Therefore, they set up a tribunal, a hastily arranged tribunal, which was actually held well outside the city in Coleraine in County Doire. It was chaired by Lord Widgery, one of the then leading Law Lords in England and he was brought on board to do so by then Prime Minister Edward Heath. There’s documentation now which has emerged down the years of conversations between Heath and Widgery in advance of the tribunal that he set up basically asking Widgery to look favourably, more than favourably, upon the actions of the British Army and pinning the blame for the deaths of fourteen innocent civilians and many more wounded on the IRA and make it plain that the IRA caused the problem (and the IRA weren’t even at the scene at the time). Of course, the Official IRA did fire one shot on Bloody Sunday which has now been well-documented it wasn’t the opening shot and it didn’t cause the deaths of the thirteen people on that afternoon.

But anyway, this hastily convened tribunal was you know set up in the flash of media hype. Pictures are still out there of the soldiers being helicoptered into the building in Coleraine with sunglasses to protect them from being identified and so on. They basically got to go through the motions of saying X, Y, and Z about what actually happened on the day – that they only shot at identified targeted gunmen – absolute lies from start to finish. A couple of months later the Widgery Report contends that it was the fault of the IRA, that the British Army responded and took appropriate action on Bloody Sunday. And this became a report which was on statute as an official piece of documentation and lodged at Westminster for thirty-eight years until the Saville Inquiry made mincemeat of Widgery’s conclusions.

However, whilst the people in Doire, and especially the relatives, knew that Widgery’s actions were based entirely upon falsehoods and lies, the rest of the world, if they wanted to find out about Bloody Sunday, had only got the Widgery Report to refer to in official terms – that was the record, that was the truth – as far as the British state were concerned. So that caused almost four decades of unimaginable pain and hurt to not only the relatives of course of those killed and wounded on that day but put an entire black cloud over the city of Doire for almost four decades. You know, having been there on the day that the Saville Report was launched, as a journalist, covering it as a journalist six years ago now, was there’s some aspects of it, of the Saville Report, which are regarded as thoroughly unsatisfactory by some people and I can understand those reasons.

There was collective weight lifted off this town on that afternoon six years ago and it was a damned shame that it took the British government forty years to admit that they simply slaughtered fourteen innocent people for no other reason than they wanted to control them and control the way they thought – and didn’t want them to answer back and simply because they were taking people out of their houses and putting them in jail without trial, without any recourse for justice back in 1971 and that’s what the Bloody Sunday march was about – it was a march against the completely undemocratic actions of the British government in Northern Ireland and for that their response was to shoot fourteen people dead… (crosstalk) (inaudible)

MG: …Right. I can remember here for example in New York the headlines of the New York Times and others talking about how the British were vindicated or exonerated on Bloody Sunday by Lord Widgery as if this was some kind of independent inquiry instead of just a whitewash with a predetermined result. What’s the status – but still – now we have troopers, so many years later after the Saville Inquiry – Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said it was unjustified and unjustifiable murder – to me as a solicitor that is manslaughter or murder if you say a killing is unjustified or unjustifiable. We’ve had Saville saying it was basically perjury…

ES: …Cameron never used the word murder.

MG: Sorry, ‘unjustified or unjustifiable killings’ which would be the same as murder. Saville basically said that they – well he used terms which would be the equivalent of perjury in terms of if you applied them to the legal definitions of perjury. Yet no British trooper has ever been charged for Bloody Sunday. Do we ever expect that to get any more than just another stage of investigation year after year after year as the people like The Nashes continue to march?

ES: They has been movement on that in recent months – over the past twelve – fourteen months in particular where it was put out there in the end that these guys could be charged with murder and brought into court and be identified and held accountable for their actions on that day. Now, this went round and round in circles until people like Kate and Linda (Nash) and various other members of the Bloody Sunday Trust and the families and so on and so forth kept pressing at the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) to go ahead and arrest these guys. What happened in that instance was that one soldier, identified as ‘Lance Corporal J’, who was responsible we understand for the killing of William Nash and the wounding of his father, Alexander Nash, and the shooting also of Mr. Young on Bloody Sunday was taken and questioned about his actions at the police station in Antrim because we understand he is a soldier from Northern Ireland who was part of the Parachute Regiment on that day. After that the other eight or nine soldiers, who are identified only by ciphers such as A,B,C,D until this very day lodged an objection at the High Court in England, in London, saying that they do not wish – they would fear for their lives if they came to Northern Ireland basically for questioning and therefore a ruling was handed down by the English High Court saying that they would have to present themselves voluntarily at police stations of their choosing in England. We now know that the raft of interviews with these guys and other soldiers who were there at the time – it wasn’t just the Parachute Regiment who were in Doire on Bloody Sunday but – have now been completed so what the relatives are now waiting on is basically word from the Public Prosecution Service as to whether or not these soldiers will be ever brought into a court of law. And the process ended some six weeks ago perhaps but there still has been no word whether the files have been passed onto the Public Prosecution Service nor indeed any determination whether that service will actually bring these guys before a court. So, yeah – it hasn’t completely stalled but we wait with bated breath to see if they ever will appear in a court room. This all ties in very much as well with the wider handling of institutions dealing with the past in Northern Ireland – a deal of some sort is expected to be announced very soon on that as well.

MG: Alright. Eamon, before you leave there’s another story that I want to talk about that relates to Doire: We’ve just had a guest before you who was talking about the process of what was called internment by licence and he mentioned someone from Doire, Tony Taylor. Can you explain what is happening with Tony Taylor and why he’s in jail if there are no charges against him at this time?

ES: Well Tony Taylor is a Republican. Of that there is no doubt. He served sentences on previous occasions for Republican activity but there is a licence mechanism in Northern Ireland where prisoners are sent out when they’re released on the understanding that if they re-offend or they are deemed to re-offend at the whim of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland they can be taken and locked up without even being told what they are suspected of having been done. So it’s internment by basically another use of the term. He was taken a couple of – well it must be at least five months now since Tony Taylor was re-arrested – and put inside. He doesn’t know what charges have been made against him, what the previous Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was told by someone in order to deem it necessary for her to issue an arrest warrant and revoke this man’s licence.

So you have a situation in the twenty-first century in a western democratic country where people, if they are suspected of something by a minister of the British government, can be taken from their home, not told why and basically stuck in a prison cell until such time as it’s deemed to be fit to be released again without being told why they are there. Now this is the same sort of mechanism that took place from the 9th of August 1971 when the British government re-introduced internment in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t the first time they’ve done this; they’ve done this periodically through their lifetime here since partition but that’s the very reason for example why people were marching on Bloody Sunday to stop this type of injustice happening and there’s a dedicated campaign going on that’s being widespreadly supported in all factions of Nationalism. And I’m glad to see there was a big rally in Doire last Saturday afternoon which was heavily attended by people who have signed petitions, mounted protests but it doesn’t seem to be taking any effect. It’s just simply being ignored by the new company at Hillsborough Castle and James Brokenshire, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It will have to come to a conclusion but how long that will take is as good as anybody knows. If they have, and I said this the last time I was on with you, if they have any evidence to suggest that Tony Taylor for example committed any crime, deemed to be political or otherwise, then bring him into a court of law and let’s hear the evidence against him. That’s the only fair mechanism that people here have recourse to and they’re denying him even that.

MG: Eamon, just one of the things that I always get asked about is: You have Sinn Féin, you have a Deputy First Minister from Doire who has made a statement about Tony Taylor, saying he should be released. You have Sinn Féin in government, you have them on policing boards, you have them in other positions. The SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) is opposed to what’s happened to Tony Taylor. Why is it that this seems to have absolutely no effect in the sense that Tony Taylor is still in jail, doesn’t know when he’s getting out or why he’s there as you’ve just explained?

ES: Because when it comes to the tier above the Deputy First Minister and the First Minister, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, it’s quite plain and obvious that the British government, in the form of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and successively down the decades, have no power whatsoever to effect any change of that nature. That the British government still, in terms of policing and justice, rule the roost. And it’s as simple as that. Whilst the PSNI are a lot more accountable than the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) ever were there’s still a lot of mechanisms that they can get by with. I mean to take a man from his home, in the instance of Tony Taylor – and it’s happened to plenty of other people as well – and basically put him back in jail without telling him why I mean that’s – you know psychologically for an individual that must be a hell of a damning thing to have to try and deal with – never mind his family and his relatives on the outside. But what’s said is clear: What is said by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State still goes and that’s the final word – and that’s that! So what recourse or what change in that direction in terms of being able to appeal to the upper echelons of British rule in Northern Ireland who still has very limited capacity as far as we can see and it’s proven by simply locking up a man for no reason at all apparently you know, so – that facet of British rule in Northern Ireland hasn’t changed at all.

MG: Alright. Eamon, we want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking to Eamon Sweeney, a journalist with the Derry Journal, who’s been talking about the death of Bishop Edward Daly. Bishop Daly, what he did in terms of Bloody Sunday, the heroic conduct that he had in terms of young Duddy as well as what he did in leading and fighting for the families in the battle for truth and justice since then. Thank you, Eamon.

ES: Thank you, Martin. Okay. Bye-bye.

(ends time stamp ~ 35:18)

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