Daniel (also called Donal when he was a boy) McGettigan was the son of Manus McGettigan and was born in Nov 1815 in the townland of Drumlackagh, parish of Mevagh, Co Donegal. He studied classics from the age of 15 at a private school near Mountcharles, Co Donegal and later at Derry Academy, which was presided over by a Presbyterian clergyman. From here he went to Clonard in Co. Meath, a foundation, then famous as a finishing school for aspirants to the priesthood destined for Maynooth.
He matriculated in 1833 and entered the Catholic Seminary, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Co.Kildare. After a year at the Dunboyne Establishment, he was ordained on 26th of May, 1839. He undertook post-graduate studies in 1839-40 and was then apointed as curate in Inver, Co. Donegal in 1840 and became administrator in Letterkenny later in 1840.
In 1854 he was appointed Vicar General of the diocese. He spent 10 years in the parish of Kilbarron (Ballyshannon area) until 1861. In the meantime, he was appointed titular Bishop of Gera, Feb 29, 1856. decreed by S.C. Propaganda Fide Feb. 13, 1965 and Coadjutor with right of succession to Raphoe. In this role he assisted his namesake Dr. Patrick McGettigan, then reigning in the See.
He succeeded to the Bishopric later that year. Despite failing health at the age of 55 he yielded to a personal appeal from the Holy Father and was appointed to the Primatial See of Armagh on March 11th, 1870. He ruled the Cardinate for seventeen years. His death on Dec 3rd, 1887 resulted from paralysis. He is buried at St. Patricks Cemetery, Armagh.
His successor in Armagh was Michael Logue, also an native of Mevagh. He explained: "Daniel McGettigan was a man with a big and good heart, the poor primate was his own executor, he left three small legacies to the poor schools of three Convents, a small annuity to his old servant and his books, furniture and pontificals to me". This was his whole will and whether there be means to meet even these little legacies is not certain"
While CC in Letterkenny he became involved in the 'Glenswilly decree' of 1845 when he refused to breach a confidence in a restitution case - outside the seal of confession - and was arrested and was confined in the country jail in Lifford. He was subsequently conveyed to Newgate Prison, Dublin. Before his case came to trial a defect in the warrant of arrest was detected by his counsel, Daniel O'Connell (The Liberator), and he was released. On his appointment as Vicar General of Raphoe the S.C. Propaganda made an interesting mote to the effect that he was not related to the Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Patrick McGettigan.
He attended the First Vatican Council and, while in Rome, he was said to have been the almost unanimous choice of the Irish bishops to fill the vacant Armagh See.