‘We must do all we can to stop spread’
The death of well-known Derry man Eamon ‘Peggy’ McCourt “has brought home the reality of this virus in our community,” a priest told mourners at his funeral yesterday.
Speaking during Requiem Mass at St Mary’s Church in Creggan, Fr. Joseph Gormley told mourners that Mr McCourt was someone who was “always a ‘go-to’ person” in the Creggan community.
Mr McCourt, a veteran republican who was well known across the north west and beyond, passed away on Saturday after a battle with COVID-19.
In May 1981, he was wounded when the SAS opened fire on a car at Southway, an attack in which fellow republican activists, George McBrearty and Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire, were killed.
Fr. Gormley said Mr McCourt’s family had gathered at St Mary’s to pray and light candles for him in the days before his death. “There is no doubt our hearts are heavy this morning because we hoped for a greater outcome than this,” he said.
“His death has brought home the reality of this virus in our community. It is necessary we do everything we can to stop its spread.
“Today tells us that human death is not a statistic.”
Fr. Gormley related how he first met Mr McCourt shortly after arriving in Creggan in 2014: “He knew the personal cost of conflict himself - he had seen friends die and the human cost it had on families was something he was acutely aware of. He was always looking out for the families of those involved. I know from that conversation Eamon would have prayed for all families involved in the conflict, no matter what the background.
“Eamon was someone who was determined to work for peace and trying to be of service to the community.”
“Eamon’s loss will be felt in this community because he was always a go to person. People who wanted something done asked Eamon,” Fr Gormley added.
Meanwhile tributes have been conveyed from people and groups far and wide since Mr McCourt passed away on Saturday, aged just 62.
Many local people had been lighting candles and had been praying for Mr McCourt in the days and hours before he passed away.
As news of his death spread, Republicans and friends from across Derry, Ireland and beyond paid tribute.
In a statement, Sinn Féin said: “The republican family in Derry are today mourning the loss of Eamon ‘Peggy’ McCourt. He was a much loved activist and political ex-prisoner who spent many years maintaining the local Republican memorial in Cromore Gardens.
“In May 1981, the SAS opened fire on a car on Southway, wounding Peggy and killing his friends and local Volunteers George McBrearty and Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire.
“He will be sorely missed by all his family, friends and comrades. I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a anam dílis.”
Donegal Ógra Shinn Féin stated: “We have received the sad news that Eamon ‘Peggy’ McCourt has died after a battle with Covid 19.
“Peggy was a dedicated republican who helped build Sinn Féin in Derry and was active in his community. Our condolences go to all his family and friends at this time.”
The Glasgow Republicans Cumann said: “His presence was massive in the republican movement in Derry and beyond, his loss will be felt just as much.”
Many from Creggan also posted tributes.
Seán Dolan’s GAC described Mr McCourt as a “legend of the Creggan community”, while Bishops of Creggan (formerly The Telstar) said: “Bishops of Creggan has lost a true gentleman and a great character of Creggan. You will be sorely missed Peggy McCourt may you rest in peace.”