Northern Ireland news

Mourners at funeral of Ivan Cooper hear how he dedicated his life to 'building a better community'

The funeral of Ivan Cooper took place at St Peter's Church in Culmore, Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

MOURNERS at the funeral of civil rights leader Ivan Cooper heard how he dedicated his life to "building a better community".

President Michael D Higgins and Pat Hume, wife of former SDLP leader John Hume, were among hundreds of people who gathered for the service at St Peter's Church in Culmore, Derry, today.

One of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr Cooper died two days ago, aged 75, following a long illness.

He was one of the leaders of the civil rights march in Derry in 1972 that ended in 13 people being shot dead on Bloody Sunday.

A founding member of the SDLP, he played a major role in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

President Michael D Higgins was among the mourners. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, as well as some of the parties veteran politicians including Bríd Rodgers and Alasdair McDonnell, were among the mourners.

Relatives of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday also attended.

A black and white flag with the logo of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights movement on it, was draped over Mr Copper's coffin.

In his funeral address, Archdeacon of Derry, Robert Miller told the congregation that Mr Cooper was a "man ahead of his time" and someone who "wanted a future better than the past".

"He challenged all of us, whatever part of the community we came from and whatever our position in society," he said.

He also described Mr Cooper as "a towering figure in Northern Ireland's recent history".

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The funeral of Ivan Cooper took place at St Peter's Church in Culmore, Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

"The breadth of political and religious opinion gathered in this church today is in itself a powerful testament to the impact he made in life and an indication of how he touched people’s lives," he said.

"Ivan's name and face and views would’ve been well-known to a whole generation who came of age - politically - in the turbulence of the late 60s and early 70s.

"And yet, in the middle of this challenging time, he was also a loving and devoted husband and father."

Archdeacon Miller urged politicians to "make Ivan's vision a reality".

"When we go from this church this afternoon, the best thing we can do - the best thing all of us can do - is finish the job that Ivan Cooper dedicated most of his life to - the task of building a better community," he said.

"To celebrate his life, we must echo his voice, and be utterly, unequivocally committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

"So, let's make Ivan’s vision a reality. Let's make politics work."

Pat Hume (right), wife of John Hume, was among the mourners. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Speaking after the service, President Higgins said it was a "privilege to attend the funeral and pay tribute" to Mr Cooper.

"Until his very last breath, Ivan believed in taking hope and turning it into something positive," he said.

Mr Cooper was laid to rest in Altnagelvin Cemetery.

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