The former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader, Glen Barr, who brought Derry to a standstill during the infamous Ulster Workers’ Council strike against the power-sharing Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, will be buried in the Waterside this afternoon.
The 75-year-old, who in later life became a committed advocate for peace in the North, and for community development in his native Waterside, passed away in Altnagelvin on Tuesday following a short period of illness.
At 1.30 p.m. this afternoon his funeral will make the short journey from his home on the Limavady Road to Ebrington Presbyterian Church for service prior to burial in Altnagelvin Cemetery.
Despite his controversial affiliation with the UDA in the 1970s, a decade when various loyalist paramilitary groups were responsible for murdering ten people in Derry and Donegal, tributes were paid to the late Mr. Barr from across the political divide due to his latter day commitment to peace in the North.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood expressed sympathy to Mr. Barr’s wife Isa, children Jacqueline, Iain, Warren and Craig, and grandchildren Ellie, Lily and Luke, and said that although he strongly disagreed with the former loyalist leader’s paramilitary involvement in the 1970s, he strongly approved of his commitment to peace in later life.
He said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of Glen Barr and wish to express my deep sympathy to his family and friends and to the broader loyalist community in Derry.
“Obviously Glen’s early life began with a belief in violence which my party stood so strongly against, but it is right to acknowledge that he came to embrace and work for reconciliation and peace.
“That commitment was evident in his friendships across party lines and across the island of Ireland.”
The Foyle MLA said Mr. Barr had played a key role in helping to unite people across the community divide through his later peace-building work.
“Glen’s passion and his ultimate legacy was in renewing the modern memory towards the nationalists and unionists who died side by side in the horrors of the First World War.
“Glen was one of those behind the events which brought together Irish Presidents and the British monarchy in Messines to remember in dignity all of our dead. May he rest in peace,” said Mr. Eastwood.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that Mr. Barr had been a ‘tireless campaigner’ for the working class unionist cause throughout his many years of activism.
The East Derry MP noted how the late Mr. Barr, or ‘Glenny’, as he was known, was “moving on from his political involvement as I moved into mine in the late 1970s”, but that he went on to spend many years promoting community development and peace-building in the North West.
“He worked hard at cross community work helping to build capacity in working class unionist areas,” said Mr. Campbell.
“He was a tireless campaigner and vigorous in defence of his own views.
“Less than three weeks ago we shared many reminiscences at a family wedding. He will be very sadly missed by us all.
“My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Isa and his children and grandchildren.”
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rev. Ken Good, has said many will find it hard to reconcile the late Mr. Barr’s leading role within the UDA in the 1970s ,with his later peace-building and community development efforts.
However Bishop Good acknowledged Mr. Barr had made an “immense contribution” to civic life in the North West.
“Glen Barr was a significant figure in the recent history of Londonderry and Northern Ireland. Many will find it difficult to overlook his early involvement with the UDA,” said Bishop Good.
“Subsequently, though, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland and prosperity for his community.
“He made an immense contribution to this city and region, and witnessed to the possibility of transformation in one’s own life as well as in their community.
“He made his mark in a variety of fields – politics, trade unionism and job creation,” added the local prelate.
Bishop Good said he believed Mr. Barr’s work in bringing the nationalist and unionist traditions closer together would be remembered.
“Ultimately, though, his work to achieve reconciliation – most notably through the Peace Tower at Messines – may prove to be his greatest legacy. I offer my sincere condolences to his wife, Isa, and their children Jacqueline, Iain, Warren and Craig,” he said.