Northern Ireland

Funeral due of civil rights leader Ivan Cooper

Ivan Cooper's funeral will take place in Derry today. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Ivan Cooper's funeral will take place in Derry today. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

NATIONALIST and unionist councillors came together to offer condolences to the family of SDLP founding member and civil rights leader Ivan Cooper ahead of his funeral today.

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

Mr Cooper, originally from Killaloo near Claudy, was a close ally of former SDLP leader John Hume. He also served as community relations minister on the short-lived Sunningdale power-sharing administration in 1974.

His funeral takes place from his home to St Peter's Church of Ireland Church at Culmore Road for a service at noon, with burial afterwards at Altnagelvin cemetery.

Derry and Strabane mayor Michaela Boyle offered condolences to Mr Cooper's family at yesterday's council meeting. She also offered condolences to the families of musician Eamon Friel and Donegal councillor Manus Mandy Kelly.

SDLP leader on the council Martin Reilly said that as a founding member, Mr Cooper's death had a particular impact on his party.

"Our party realised that Ivan was born to break the mould. He was a working-class Protestant man who saw common injustice and inequality and he took on to try to address that, dedicating his life to fighting for 'one person one vote' and equality for all," he said.

Mrs Boyle's condolences were formally supported by Sinn Féin, the UUP and DUP.

Further tributes were extended to Mr Cooper yesterday.

Award-winning film director Paul Greengrass said it was impossible not to be impressed by Mr Cooper's "moral seriousness" and his principles.

Mr Greengrass got to know Mr Cooper while directing 2002 film 'Bloody Sunday' in which the Derry man was played by actor James Nesbitt.

Church of Ireland Archdeacon Robert Miller described Mr Cooper as a "towering figure" in Northern Ireland's recent history.

"For many unionists he was a controversial figure and his motives were called into question. But in seeking a more equitable society, advocating for equality and supporting power-sharing, one might argue that Ivan was ahead of his time," he said.

He said Mr Cooper was a man of vision, courage and faith who would be missed by his fellow Church of Ireland parishioners and the people of Derry.