Belfast Telegraph

Funeral of civil rights leader Ivan Cooper to take place on Friday

Ivan Cooper (Niall Carson/PA)
Ivan Cooper (Niall Carson/PA)

SDLP founder and civil rights leader Ivan Cooper will be laid to rest on Friday.

Mr Cooper died in hospital on Wednesday at the age of 75 following a long illness.

He will be laid to rest in Altnagelvin Cemetery following a service at St Peter's Church in Londonderry at 12pm.

Mr Cooper is survived by his wife Frances and daughters Sinead and Bronagh.

The former Stormont MP, who helped found the SDLP, led the fateful civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday when soldiers shot dead 13 protesters in January 1972.

He was also at the forefront of another landmark civil rights march in Derry in October 1968.

Many point to the scenes of violence when police moved to break up the demonstration on the city’s Duke Street as the effective beginning of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Irish president Michael D Higgins presented Mr Cooper with a special award to mark his role in civil rights at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Duke Street march last year.

Mr Cooper was one of few Protestants involved with the civil rights movement.

He said his involvement saw him ostracised by other Protestants, and even found people in his church refused to sit beside him on the pews.

Ivan Cooper, second right, was a founding member of the SDLP (PA)
Ivan Cooper, second right, was a founding member of the SDLP (PA)

Current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute, hailing Mr Cooper as a man who “embodied the contrasting traditions of this island”.

“Ivan Cooper was born to break the mould,” he said.

Pat Hume, wife of former SDLP leader John, who is also suffering ill-health, said: “Ivan and John walked side by side, hand in hand, in their shared desire for equality, justice and peace in Ireland.

“Ivan was the embodiment of the non-violent and non-sectarian movement for change that was the campaign for civil rights."

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