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Mister, Are You a Priest?

Derry Journal, 20 October 2000

Hundreds turn out for Bishop's book launch

Hume pays tribute to "truly remarkable" man

Nobel Laureate, John Hume, paid a glowing tribute to the retired Bishop of Derry, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Daly, at the launch of the Bishop's autobiography, Mister, Are You a Priest?, at the Verbal Arts Centre this week.

Upwards of 600 people turned out for Tuesday evening's event which was attended by family and friends of the bishop as well as key political, clerical and business representatives from right across Ireland.

Indeed, the launch was delayed for more than half-an-hour as crowds patiently queued for Dr Daly to sign copies of the book. Officially launching the book, the first print of which is already almost sold out, Mr Hume praised the former bishop's "outstanding contribution" to the life of Derry.

"Bishop Daly will go down in history as someone who made a major contribution to the development of this city and its people in the century we have just left," said the SDLP leader, "We owe him a great debt of gratitude." Mr Hume said he was in no doubt that the book, which he described as outstanding, would top the best-sellers lists across the country. "What particularly impressed me about it was its down-to-earth quality - something which, I believe, exemplifies Bishop Daly." The book, said Mr Hume, painted a powerful and moving picture of life in Derry during the 1960s and 1970s.

"One of the most powerful chapters in the book is the bishop's recollections of Bloody Sunday, an event in which, as we all know, he had a very direct and terrible experience."

Leading role

Mr Hume pointed out that it should never be forgotten that Dr Daly also played a leading role in the theatrical, cultural and musical life of Derry.

"He devoted much of his time to the preservation and development of this proud tradition," he said. "Again we owe him a debt of gratitude for this." "However, the outstanding feature of the book is the humility of the man. As priest and bishop, Bishop Daly has had a massive impact on the fabric of life in Derry. I'm ashamed to say that, while he may be from Beleek, he has become a true Derry man." Dr Daly himself admitted that writing the book had revived many mixed memories, both of happy and sad times. "Writing the book proved a strangely exciting and wonderfully fulfilling experience," he said.

"It was totally unanticipated and unplanned. I never set out to write a book. I just started writing a statement for the Saville Inquiry and the book grew out of this. I have to say that it was an amazingly therapeutic and relaxing experience." Recalling the deaths of Annette McGavigan, Sammy Devenney and Jackie Duddy, Dr Daly said each of them had had a very powerful impact on his life, both as a priest and as a person. "Their deaths are etched indelibly in my memory and on my soul," he said.

Deeply honoured

He said he was enormously grateful and deeply honoured that John Hume had agreed to launch the book. "John has been a wonderful friend and a great source of inspiration to me and many others for a long number of years," he said. Dr Daly also confirmed that he had no plans at present to complete his memoirs.