Belfast Telegraph

Final farewell to Inez McCormack, a true champion of the downtrodden

By Brendan McDaid

Several hundred people turned out to bid farewell to the veteran trade unionist and campaigner Inez McCormack at her funeral in Londonderry.

The funeral procession made its way from her home in Belmont Crescent to the City Cemetery for the burial service yesterday afternoon.

Politicians and trade union officials were among those who turned out to pay their respects.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were among the procession.

Ms McCormack lost her battle against breast and colon cancer on Monday.

The Belfast-born human rights activist passed away at the Foyle Hospice.

As her funeral got under way, SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan rose in the House of Commons to praise Mrs McCormack as a human rights and trade union leader.

Speaking during Northern Ireland questions, Mr Durkan said to the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers: “Someone who espoused the ethic that no minority was too small to be protected or cherished was Inez McCormack, whose funeral takes place today.

“Will the Right Honorable Lady join in paying tribute to the work Inez McCormack did, not just as a trade unionist, but in stressing that the benchmarks for a new fair society in Northern Ireland must include equality, cherishing of difference and the protection of all minorities?”

The Secretary of State replied: “I am happy and enthusiastic to join the Honorable Gentleman in paying that tribute.”

Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of Unison, said that the woman who was her predecessor may have gone in body, but added “she will never leave us in spirit”.

Ms McKeown said: “She has touched the lives of thousands of ordinary women and men and she has succeeded in what she set out to do. She has made a difference.

“Much has been said and written about Inez over the years. She is held in the highest regard across the international trade union movement.

“She holds a special place in the heart of the US trade union movement where her work, not only on our own peace process but also against repression of workers everywhere, has been acknowledged at the highest level.

“Inez constantly battled on shifting sands on some of the most controversial issues such as discrimination, child sexual abuse, rape in marriage and as a weapon of war and a woman’s right to choose. Many of the issues on which she broke the mould are now seen as safe ground for those who came later.”

Ms McCormack was a prominent figure during the early civil rights movement.

She was one of the world’s leading campaigners for the rights of low-paid workers and for women’s rights.

She made history by becoming the first woman president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The current president of the ICTU, Eugene McGlone, said her track record in the field of women’s and human rights was unequalled.

Ms McCormack is credited with having helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement.

She is survived by her husband Vincent and daughter Anne.

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