Conferring of freedom of the City of Derry on Bishop Edward Daly and Bishop James Mehaffey
The Guildhall, Derry
Bishop Edward Daly’s acceptance speech
This is a wonderful honour. I am hugely pleased to accept it particularly when it is being shared with my friend and brother, Bishop James. It is enhanced by the fact that the honour is conferred by the elected representatives of our fellow citizens.
We have been privileged to serve the people of this city and diocese and I thank the public representatives, the laity and the clergy of all denominations who shared ministry with us. I thank my own family, particularly my sisters, for their consistent support over many years.
In a few weeks’ time, I will have served for 53 years here in this city, since May 1962. Time passes so quickly, in the blink of an eye.
Bishop James and I always had as our priority our ministry to our respective flocks. But we also believed it was important that as our people passed through what the psalmist described as ‘the valley of darkness’ that we should give witness to the power of Christian friendship, that we should demonstrate the benefits of sharing rather than dividing and be symbols of unity rather than division. For example, in 1980, with Paddy Doherty, a man of extraordinary vision, we were involved in founding the Inner City Trust which was a powerful example of involving hundreds of disadvantaged young people in construction, offering them their rightful dignity and giving them a sense of ownership of their own city centre. From the Inner City Trust, the Waterside Churches Trust came into being. In 1983, 32 years ago, we were both involved with Dr Tom McGinley here in this Guildhall in the initial public meeting and the foundation of the Foyle Hospice. Both the Inner Trust and the Foyle Hospice have been wonderful examples of the power of positive influences in our city, positive influences of true Christianity at work, positive influences in the importance of giving their rightful dignity to every human being.
Both organisations are still going strong, thank God. Both continue to do great work.
The two week long series of the Two Cathedrals Festival begun in the late 1980s was another joint initiative where, despite the surrounding tensions, the two cathedral congregations along with others, prayed together, sang together and enjoyed beautiful music together – and then on an evening during the Christmas season each year processed from one cathedral to the other through the city centre.
Inter-Church dialogue and Church leadership here in the 1970s and 1980s was not just ‘nice people talking to nice people about nice things’. It involved getting one’s hands dirty, it meant talking honestly and bluntly, confronting difficult issues, making difficult decisions, speaking one’s mind, and being mature enough to reach a Christian resolution. It meant, sometimes, in the memorable words of Paddy Doherty, ‘seeking forgiveness rather than seeking permission’. It meant sometimes agreeing to disagree.
The Derry City Council here during its 42 years of life has set an excellent example of what co-operation can achieve. I thank you and congratulate you and your colleagues for that, Madam Mayor. I hope that that same co-operation will continue in the new council formation that will soon come into being.
The past 53 years have been for me an incredible experience – I greatly enjoyed the pastoral and cultural involvement of the early years of ministry here – I was shocked and terrified during the years of conflict; those years provided me with great challenges that I found daunting and, sometimes shocking; sometimes terrifying; and then, for the last 21 years, I have served in the hospice – those years spent in that remarkable place have formed an edifying and life-enhancing experience and gave me a new sense of the precious and unique nature of every human life.
When I first came to Derry, many of the streets I served in did not have a single telephone, now most people over 10 years of age have a powerful minicomputer in their hand or in their pocket or their bag. There have been many advances – better housing, better living conditions – the city looks so much better – the work that this Council has done on the Waterfront is truly stunning and worthy of mention. But, as was the situation 53 years ago, there are still unacceptable levels of unemployment. The campaign for a university worthy of this ancient city must be sustained and the road and rail connections must be improved as part of the fundamental answer to this problem.
Bishop James and I went to the United States on two occasions on extensive speaking tours – we met various groups, in universities, business groups, Rotaries, churches and political groups to speak about our love for this city and its potential.
I remember one Sunday morning in October 1990 we preached a dialogue sermon in Georgetown outside Washington DC, not many miles from the White House and Congress. The church, an Anglican church, was dedicated to none other than Saint Columba and at the rear of the church there was a wonderful stained glass window depicting Saint Columba leaving Derry for Iona. Just a short distance from Saint Columba’s church is Georgetown University, one of the great academic, intellectual, political and commercial powerhouses in the United States. We met the congregation after the service for a discussion forum. Among the packed congregation was James Baker who, at that time, was the US Secretary of State and other distinguished individuals, all worshipping in a church dedicated to Saint Columba. There was incredible interest in the story of Saint Columba and his origins and his city.
Those visits served to remind us that this great city has imprints all around the world. Wherever you go in the world, there are people with Derry or Londonderry roots who love this city and are intensely interested in this place. There is a great good will for our city and its people
My experience here over five decades has convinced me of one thing above all others – that we can do much more together than we can do apart. Difference should be seen as enriching rather than threatening. There is a rich tapestry of cultures here – and each of them has made an important contribution to who we are and what we are and each should be cherished by us all.
I treasure my faith and its values and Bishop James treasures his. We learned to share rather than impose, to tolerate rather than to squabble, above all, we learned to respect rather than distrust. If that can be achieved in the midst of bitter conflict, surely it can be achieved at any time.
So, it is in that spirit that, with Bishop James, I accept this great honour. The last two people to be given freedom of this city were John Hume and Dr Tom McGinley. I am honoured and humbled to follow in their giant footsteps.
Notes to Editors
-  Archbishop Justin Welby
- Bishop Edward Daly is Bishop Emeritus of Derry. Bishop Daly studied in theIrish College in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood on 16 March 1957. He was a curate in the parish of Saint Eugene’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Derry, which includes the Bogside area of Derry City, during The Troubles. Bishop Daly was ordained Bishop of Derry in 1974 and retired in 1993 due to ill health, and subsequently took up a post as chaplain to Foyle Hospice. As an author Bishop Daly has published Mister, Are you a Priest?; Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled; and was co-author of The Clergy of the Diocese of Derry: an Index, and has contributed to A History of the Diocese of Derry.
- The conferring of the Freedom of the City of Derry on Bishop Edward Daly and Bishop James Mehaffey this evening will be the last official act of Derry City Council before its amalgamation with Strabane District Council on 1 April 2015.
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