Retired Derry bishops receive freedom of the city
Edward Daly and James Mehaffey honoured by council as ‘leaders of our society’
Dr James Mehaffey (l), retired Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and Dr Edward Daly (c), retired Catholic Bishop of Derry, with mayor of Derry Brenda Stevenson. The former bishops were conferred with the freedom of the city. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/PA Wire
Two of Derry’s retired bishops were conferred with the freedom of the city by mayor Brenda Stevenson, in the last official administrative act carried out by Derry City Council prior to its amalgamation with Strabane Council on April 1st.
Dr Edward Daly, who was the Catholic Bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993, and Dr James Mehaffey, who was the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, follow in the footsteps of Dr Tom McGinley, who received the award last year in recognition of his work with the Foyle Hospice, and Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, who received the honour in 2000.
The decision to confer the freedom of the city on Dr Daly and Dr Mehaffey was unanimously agreed at last month’s meeting of Derry City Council. It followed a proposal presented by SDLP councillor John Boyle, who described both men as worthy recipients of the honour.
Mr Boyle’s motion, which received cross-party support, stated: “They were and still are leaders of our society and they continue to work towards the betterment of our society today.”
Mr Boyle said Dr Mehaffey was “a great shepherd of the people” and that Dr Daly would forever be remembered for his role after the events of Bloody Sunday.
Among those at the ceremony in Derry’s Guildhall building was local SDLP MP Mark Durkan.
“I am delighted that Derry City Council has conferred the freedom of the city on the two retired bishops. I am delighted that these two great but humble figures have been honoured by the city they served so well. Through turbulent, turgid times they provided signal witness against violence, division and despair.
“We were literally blessed by their pastoral leadership, which offered consolation, counsel, challenge and conciliation as they were needed. Of course, their service was not just to the city of Derry, but to their larger dioceses and churches more widely.
“Through the worst of hurt they also offered national and international witness in respect of healing and the purpose of reconciliation. Both these men of true character and many personal attributes have long ago been adopted by the city of Derry and this special conferral puts a warm seal of civic confirmation on that special regard.”
Both Dr Daly and Dr Mehaffey said they were humbled and honoured to receive the award.