26/06/2019

Civil Rights Leader Ivan Cooper Dies

Tributes have been paid as one of Northern Ireland's most widely known civil rights leaders, Ivan Cooper, has died.

Mr Cooper, a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), was among those who led the civil rights march in L'Derry in 1972, a demonstration that later ended in 13 people being shot dead in what is now known as Bloody Sunday.

The former MP and Stormont member was celebrated for the contribution he made to equality in the region and played a major role in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. He died aged 75.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood honoured the life and legacy of Mr Cooper, who he said embodies the contrasting traditions of Northern Ireland.

The foyle MLA said: "Ivan Cooper was born to break the mould. A working class Protestant man who saw a common injustice and inequality that had taken root in Protestant and Catholic communities, he dedicated his life to fighting it.
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"As an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, few have contributed as much to peace and equality on this island than Ivan. Organising marches in Derry for the right to a home, the right to a job and the right to a vote, Ivan often put himself in the path of danger to secure justice for people in every community. And on many occasions that meant that he suffered vilification and violence for his convictions. It never stopped him. Alongside his close friend John Hume, he helped blaze the trail on the path that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

"Anyone who knew Ivan knows that his selfless passion for justice continued to burn brightly into his later years. His unwavering belief that people on this island should come together to fight for common ideals and in their common interest is a lesson for us all. Especially as we face political division today."

Mr Eastwood remembered Mr Cooper's driving ambition to deliver civil rights, equality and fairness for all, regardless of background. He continued: "A man of sharp contrasts, sharp intellect and, it must be said, sharp tongue, he stands as a giant in the story of this island. And he holds a special place in the hearts of SDLP members.

"I want to express my deepest sympathies to Ivan's wife Francis, his daughters Sinead and Bronagh and his entire family circle at this difficult time."

Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion offered her condolences to Mr Cooper's family and friends.

"He stood up with others and challenged an unjust and unfair system of apartheid and discrimination," she said.



(JG/CM)

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