Gorgeous sunshine lit up the civil rights flag draped over the coffin of the late Ivan Cooper as his remains were borne to St. Peter’s on Friday.
There Rev. Katie McAteer, by coincidence a relation of two totems of mid-twentieth century Derry, Eddie and Hugh McAteer, received another giant with a prayer at the door of the church at Belmont.
“We receive the body of our brother Ivan with confidence in God, the giver of life, who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead,” said Rev. McAteer, Pastoral Director of the Parish.
Inside Ivan’s wife Frances, his daughters Sinéad and Bronagh, his son-in-law Conor, and his grandchildren Cashel and Luca, were joined by old comrades from the barricades of the late 1960s and early 1970s such as Michael Canavan, Pat Hume, Austin Currie, Nell McCafferty and Bríd Rodgers, among others.
President Michael D. Higgins signed a copy of a Book of Condolence, opened by the Mayor of Derry & Strabane, Michaela Boyle, as he entered.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion, Foyle MLAs Raymond McCartney and Mark H. Durkan all paid their respects as did local councillors and MLAs and TDs from further afield. Fianna Fáil TDs Charlie McConalogue and Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallager, and Austin Currie’s daughter Emer, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael running mate in the next Irish election also travelled.
The Venerable Robert Miller, Archdeacon of Derry, who led the service, read from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 1, which contains the instruction from Jesus in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ that: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they be called children of God.”
In his homily Archdeacon Miller said he believed Ivan’s peace-making instincts were a reflection of his Christianity.
“My encounters with Ivan revealed a man of faith whose life was governed by that faith: a call to love one another as God has first loved us was a truth that shaped Ivan’s whole life,” he said.
Archdeacon Miller was mindful that amid the who’s who of civil rights veterans and dignataries a family was grieving the loss of a dearest loved one.
“Ivan will be greatly missed by this whole city and by his fellow parishioners here at St Peter’s. Most of all, though, he’ll be missed by Frances, by Sinéad and Bronagh, by his son-in-law Conor and the grandchildren, and by the wider family circle,” he said.
Following the service Ivan was taken to Altnagevlin Cemetery on Church Brae and laid to rest within line-of-sight of the hills around Killaloo were he grew up.